HL Deb 17 May 1988 vol 497 cc185-254

3.5 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science (Baroness Hooper)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Hooper.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 141 [Abolition of ILEA.]:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

I should point out to the Committee that if Amendment No. 269 is agreed to, I shall be unable to call Amendment No. 269A.

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 269: Page 136, line 19, leave out ("On 1st April 1990") and insert ("Subject to the provisions of subsection (3) below, the Secretary of State may by order provide that on a date to be appointed")

The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 269 standing in my name, that of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and also the noble Lord, Lord Annan. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 270A, 271 and 272.

On Second Reading concern was expressed from all sides of the Chamber that the proposals for the abolition of the ILEA were hasty and ill thought-out. Their late introduction into the Bill, at Committee stage in another place, meant that they were denied the consultation and public scrutiny accorded to other chapters of the Bill. Further, the subject of abolition did not figure in the Conservative Party manifesto.

The Government's original idea of permitting boroughs to opt out of ILEA, while retaining a reserve power to abolish it once eight boroughs had tried to do so, was an unsatisfactory compromise. But then to be bounced straight into total abolition by two senior former Ministers, addressing a public largely outside London, merely turned infirmity of purpose into abandonment of any rational policy towards the multiple educational problems of inner London. The vast majority of Members who signed the Early Day Motion in another place were not London MPs either.

In those circumstances it is small wonder that the parents, who had not been consulted, should have organised their own ballot which delivered an absolute majority of 51.6 per cent. of those entitled to vote; and a majority of 94.3 per cent. of votes cast against the proposal. Vigorous attempts have been made to discredit the vote, largely on the grounds that it was financed in part by the Labour-controlled Association of London Authorities. However, it was the parents themselves who found by far the greater part of the money. I understand that a large amount of the ALA's contribution is likely to be repaid. Given that the Secretary of State, when approached, did not offer any money—despite the Government's proper attachment to ballotting for many purposes—it seems to me that the method of fund raising chosen was perfectly legitimate.

I can only say that I am an ILEA parent; that I voted in the ballot; that the question was designed by the Electoral Reform Society, not by ILEA; that I received no political propaganda, Labour or otherwise, and that the outcome strikes me as near to a genuine expression of a majority opinion as one could reasonably hope to obtain in the absence of statutory support.

Before I turn to the amendment itself, there are a few points I should like to stress with all the power at my command. We do not seek either to whitewash ILEA or to maintain it intact at any cost in its present form. Like most large bodies, ILEA has strengths and weaknesses. One of the latter is excessive bureaucracy. There was also a period when the politicians were totally dominated by the unions and unable, or unwilling, to redeploy teachers or manage a budget in a responsible way. Further, there were the poor exam results, although it is only fair to make some allowance for socio-economic factors in that regard. Then there were the fringe organisations, funded by ILEA, which, frankly, did the authority no good and which I am sure will be referred to in the debate this afternoon.

However, having said that, we must preserve some sense of balance and not allow policy to be dictated by the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail or, indeed, by the flurry of pamphleteering to which most of us have been subjected in the past few days.

Over the past year or so there have been distinct signs that ILEA has, none too soon, begun to put its house in order. As an ILEA parent—although I have some reservations on teaching, especially on the subject of history which I have mentioned in this place before—I have nothing but praise for ILEA's courageous and successful policy of racial integration. For example, my own son is far more at home with the multi-racial community in which he will live his life than he would have been had he gone to a prominent public school. He accepts that fact himself and indeed is proud of it; that is a plus.

Then there are other strengths and centres of excellence. I refer especially to music; to special needs education; to learning and resources branch; to further education; to the careers and youth services and to adult education. All of those aspects, according to virtually all informed opinion, will be seriously curtailed by the Bill in its present form. Nevertheless, important though all those specialities are, what should concern us most of all is the effect on the generality of children of primary and secondary-school age.

The crucial question is surely: can the boroughs cope within the time allowed and with the Government's apparent financial assumptions? I mean not just some of the boroughs, but all the boroughs. Here a whole cacophony of voices is raised, with some Conservative MPs taking completely different sides. The Member for Battersea, Mr. John Bowis, who is an abolitionist with a vengeance, has written a lively pamphlet which I am sure some noble Lords have received. It is called "ILEA, the Closing Chapter". Unfortunately, he spoils his own case by referring to children flooding into ILEA: from Brent and Haringey and similar boroughs run by extreme Left regimes where the parents have obviously felt that even ILEA is a better fate for their children than the awful prospect of schools in their own borough". Again, unfortunately, most inner London boroughs are much more like Brent and Haringey than, say, Croydon, or Harrow. London parents are very well aware of that, as is evidenced by the vote to which I have referred.

Diametrically on the opposite side to Mr. Bowis is Mr. Gerald Bowden, the Conservative Member for Dulwich, who told the House of Commons on 28th March that Southwark's services and finances were in such a mess that it would be utterly irresponsible to require Southwark to take on the education of children within the borough. We can all, I am sure, think of other boroughs to which much the same applies. I am aware that Westminster and Wandsworth and Kensington and Chelsea are keen to become LEAs in their own right and might cope well enough for their own children. But there is also a distinct possibility that they will raise barriers against children from other boroughs. Westminster's prospectus refers to the need to look at such questions as: Whether to slow down the inflow of people from outside Westminster". This looks suspiciously like incipient protectionism and thus a diminution of the choice conferred by the present high degree of cross-boundary movement.

Then there are very serious worries about the level of funding of education in inner London as a whole which seems set to decrease by some 40 per cent. over the four-year transitional period, if the Government have their way and if the poll tax is not to rise to intolerable levels.

ILEA may have overspent on administration and been weak on redeployment. By better management it might perhaps have cut its costs by 10 or 15 per cent. But to suggest that efficient and equitable education could be delivered for 40 per cent. less than at present is frankly to enter Cloud-cuckoo-land. It is hardly surprising therefore that there are mounting fears that the standards, whose improvement is one of the main stated purposes of the Bill, will not be improved. Rather the opposite. This is the fear expressed by the education officers and by the head teachers and other professional bodies.

If their views are discounted as biased, coming as they do from education interests or within the educational establishment, let us turn instead to the Conservative Education Association which says: We are reluctantly drawn to the conclusion that, taking the educational service in London as a whole, standards … will fall as a result of Government policy. While standards in parts of the service may rise in some areas, this will be at the cost of standards falling elsewhere and to a greater extent".

To meet these mounting concerns, there are a number of projects in the air, among them a unitary authority for certain services, particularly those which are natural candidates for cross-boundary treatment, such as orchestras and careers, special needs and adult education. There is also the idea of groupings of adjacent or contiguous boroughs which have a high percentage of cross-border traffic.

Some of these suggestions may commend themselves to noble Lords. But rather than try ourselves to design, on the hoof, between the Committee and the final stages of the Bill, and with the same haste of which we accuse the Government, some kind of slimline ILEA or other residuary body or bodies, to protect our own favoured specialities, my co-sponsors of this amendment and I believe that it would be far better to follow the course outlined in our amendments.

I turn now to the amendments themselves. I repeat that I am speaking not only to Amendment No. 269 but also to Amendments Nos. 270A, 271 and 272 which all hang together. We do not seek to delete the abolition clause but to make it subject to the safeguard that a proper assessment is carried out of the best future structure and organisation of education for inner London. This is therefore not just another internal review of ILEA but a requirement for a rational survey of the options, in view of the battle of pamphlets to which I have already referred.

Amendment No. 269 is the paving amendment; Amendment No. 270 sets up a panel of assessors. I wish to point out here, in case any noble Lord should be worried about damaging and demoralising delays and indecision, that the report must be delivered at the latest by 1st April 1989. That is only a month or so after the boroughs have been told to submit their plans and a full year before the abolition date proposed in the Bill.

Amendment No. 271 gives the Secretary of State power to appoint the panel, including the chairman, but requires the consultation by the panel with all interested parties which has been so noticeably lacking from this chapter of the Bill. In effect it restores the consultation process, but within the strict time limit that I have mentioned. If the Secretary of State decides not to activate the abolition clause, Amendment No. 272 empowers him to propose any alternative arrangements that he sees fit. In either case, he must submit his decision to an affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. That is the combined effect of these four linked amendments.

I do not think that this is an unduly protracted or cumbersome procedure. There is a strict time limit built into it, and I cannot stress that too strongly. We also want an early decision on the future pattern of education at all levels in inner London. But we want it to be taken in a way that will confer greater legitimacy on it than the Bill will achieve, and that secures the support not only of three or four boroughs but of a large majority of inner Londoners. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark

Within the diocese of Southwark there are 63 Church schools lying within the five boroughs of the Inner London Education Authority. When the question of opting-out was proposed originally both for schools and for boroughs and then subsequently it was decided to abolish ILEA itself, the views of parents, staff and governors of Church schools were sought. The vast majority of those consulted were and are entirely opposed to the abolition of ILEA. Never have I received so many letters, petitions and the like from church councils, school governors, PTAs and many individuals.

The reasons for this are not far to seek and do not imply, as has already been made clear by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, a blanket approval for everything ILEA has done, nor for some of the views expressed from time to time by ILEA councils and others.

Let me enumerate these reasons briefly because they lie at the back of much that we shall be talking about this afternoon. I think that fundamental is the fact that there has been a unitary authority for 120 years; never has that been challenged by any report so far to any significant extent. There has been a good, wide-ranging inspectorate; training facilities for teachers; generous resources for library equipment; extra help for schools where many children do not speak English as a first language; an excellent child guidance service; a very good adult education service, often described as "second to none"; one of the best nursery class ratios in the country; sports and music facilities; a very good youth service; and of course, on the whole, very good staff/pupil ratios, both at secondary and primary levels. Often overlooked is the fact that there is quite a lot of help for special needs. For instance, known to me personally are teachers in mental hospitals, teachers for bodies like the Rainer Foundation, which do very special and important work with disturbed and untrained youngsters.

With all that in mind, it is not surprising that this has cost more than the provision of education has cost in some of the outer London boroughs. Let us take Bexley which provides nursery education, I believe, for just over 1 per cent. of the child population; or indeed Merton, a small borough in the diocese where the ratio of teachers to pupils is much less good and where by and large there is less support to schools and teachers over a whole range of activities.

In outer London boroughs there is a higher proportion of children who go to independent schools which certainly eases the burden on the ratepayer and often reduces potential parental concern and interest. But that is not to say that ILEA has been as cost efficient as it could have been. It is very difficult to weigh the socio-economic factors, and I am certainly not in a position to do that accurately, but there are particular problems about working in inner London which cannot be overlooked; for instance, the cost of repairs to school buildings and the fact that it is difficult to attract good teachers to work there. It is now extremely difficult to attract head teachers, even, because of the cost of housing and other factors. All this has certainly had its effect.

It is not generally realised yet that ILEA is already rate-capped, and it is generally expected that by 1990 the costs of ILEA will not be much different per pupil from those of the average outer London borough. What difference this will then make to the service to be provided no one can yet tell. The immediate effect is to accentuate the decline in morale and the flight of teachers from the capital.

Strictly speaking—and this is why I want to make this point—it is not necessary to abolish ILEA simply in order to reduce costs. That is a process which is already well under way; and that, of course, was one of the reasons given for its abolition. The case must therefore rest on other grounds; notably, of course, the desire to improve standards at secondary level and to break up another large institution which has at times been politically difficult, even irresponsible.

But what will be the consequences of the abolition and of doing it in such haste? I stress the size of the task. It is often said that the GLC has gone and that people ask who has noticed its departure. I see one or two nods on my right. Indeed that may be true, but the difference is enormous. Take, for instance, one borough in the diocese—the London borough of Southwark. Its budget will double, and that is about average for all the London boroughs known to me. Education accounts for around 50 per cent. or a little more of their budgets. This compares with a total extra cost of about 20 per cent. which was imposed on the boroughs when the GLC went, and much of that was for fairly routine services which it was not difficult for them to take on board and provide.

Further, we are talking mainly about rate-capped boroughs, although not all of them are rate-capped. When they become education authorities they will be faced with huge new tasks. As has already been pointed out, some of them are not finding it too easy to cope with those they already have. They will also be asked to take on a whole range of cross-borough services which are supposed to be picked up by the boroughs according to location or shared on a voluntary basis. That is a tricky recipe at the best of times for getting a thing well done. All that is to be set out in a development plan and outlined by October and then set down in more firm terms by February.

The draft guidance gives relatively little help. It indicates what has to be done and it certainly raises the questions, but it is for these reasons and many others that there is enormous anxiety. I want to stress to the Committee that there is enormous anxiety about how this transfer of responsibility will happen and how it will be managed. As somebody said to me, we are looking into an abyss. The National Association of Head Teachers wrote recently: The financial effects of all the legislation now going through Parliament—education, poll tax and housing—could be disastrous for the provision of services in inner London". I am sure that the association did not write that lightheartedly.

At the same time I recognise that the Government's mind has been made up and clearly expressed in another place. We have to face that fact. Although outright opposition to abolition is what most of my correspondents have requested, often in the strongest terms, it is clear that what we are actually faced with is the need to find a way to protect the many good things which ILEA does so well and at least some of the undoubted benefits of treating inner London as one area with particular needs which have been met so well by the unitary nature of London education over the past 120 years. This amendment, standing in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, will go some way to relieve that anxiety because it will give a breathing space in which to address the issues more adequately than certainly the draft guidance does.

I suspect that some of the civil servants at the DES are (dare I say it?) extremely worried about the implementation of this part of the Bill. To pass this amendment will not only give expression to that profound unease which now exists but will give a little time in which to work out how certain services can be sustained, how we are going to make sure that sufficient finance is available, how best to co-operate between boroughs, and whether there are ways of providing a more unitary approach for particular needs.

Yet having said that, I cannot escape a parallel unease about the danger of delay. I suppose that if I were a careful politician (which I am not) I would hesitate to say that kind of thing publicly. But I have to say it out of a deep concern about the future of children's education in London. Already it is clear that administrative staff in ILEA and teachers in schools are leaving. They are the people who have shown tremendous commitment to London's children. But they seem to be saying that they have had enough. So I am fearful of delay even though the delay proposed by this amendment is very short.

Therefore I should like to ask the Minister whether she can give us some firm and specific indications that positive steps can and will be taken to preserve, for instance, the first-class cross-borough services such as adult education and special schools, and many others, in order that what has been built up over the years—and it takes time to do it—will not be allowed to fall apart as it were almost overnight. Can the Minister indicate an awareness of the scale of this reorganisation? It is enormous. There are the particular difficulties of inner London and of the authorities that will have to cope with those difficulties. How will the department help those authorities that are already in difficulty to provide an adequate service?

Without such assurances, and whatever the reasons why those difficulties exist, I cannot do other than vote for this amendment as a means of expressing this very deep unease which has been shown to me by so many people over the past few months—and, of course, we shall hear much more about it this afternoon.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Annan

No doubt the three signatories to this amendment each has his own reasons for supporting it. My own reasons are slightly different from those of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and the right reverend Prelate who has just spoken. Speaking for myself, I face the abolition of ILEA with considerable equanimity. But the point that I wish to try to emphasise, and which came out from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, is that this amendment is entirely favourable to the Government. In no way does it challenge their resolve to abolish ILEA. It recognises that in another place the Government were forced to move rather more speedily towards that objective than they had in mind when they first drafted the Bill. The amendment is drafted to give the Government the opportunity to make that detailed assessment of the capacities of the boroughs to take on their new responsibilities. After all, they will be doubling their staff and not far from doubling their budgets. It also enables the boroughs to discover just how many ILEA sites they will be taking over and how many cross-borough activities and facilities exist.

Last week, a group of Cross-Bench Peers had the pleasure of meeting the leaders of the three Conservative boroughs in London—Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Wandsworth. The representatives of the boroughs said to us that the boroughs and ILEA could sort out those problems by themselves and that they would co-operate regardless of political persuasion. However, they made one proviso. I could not help thinking, as I listened to them, that the proviso was the same as that which crossed Macbeth's mind when he was pondering Duncan's murder: If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well It were done quickly". They said, "If you give ILEA the impression, however faint, that there is a chance that it will be reprieved, then it will refuse to co-operate and the transfer of power will be painful and prolonged". There is a lot in that.

I have no doubt that those words will be hanging on the lips of the Minister at the moment when she comes to reply. However, before she counters with it, I must ask whether she or anyone in the Government knows the full extent of cross-borough services which ILEA offers. Does she know all the institutions, some of them in the private sector, to which ILEA gives a subvention in return for teaching? Does she know all the sites which the ILEA owns? What will happen to those sites when they are transferred to the boroughs and become saleable assets—very tempting assets to councils well endowed with entrepreneurial ambitions?

It is not Macbeth but rather Lady Macbeth who comes to mind when I look at the Minister. Will she say to herself at the carve-up, as Lady Macbeth did when she was sleepwalking: Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him"? Does she know the extraordinary extent of those activities? I forbear to read out the whole list. However, there are an incredible number of schools which are involved in cross-borough activities. There are many activities, such as hospital tuition units and special education inspectorates. How are all those activities to be fitted in? Do we believe that, when the boroughs get together, they can provide the same services? What will happen, for example, to a well-known private art school, the City and Guilds in South London, when ILEA subventions are withdrawn?

As I said, the amendment is designed to help the Government and reassure those who are the recipients of ILEA largesse that whatever they do, their activities will get fair consideration and will not be simply brushed aside because they do not fit into the budget and activites of a borough. I know that the Government have that in mind.

The morale of many teachers in adult education and special education schools must surely be in the minds of the Government as well. So is the state of mind of ILEA administrators. Many of them are dedicated people who have given good service to London. It may be that some of the activities of ILEA should be curtailed and culled. I think that an independent inquiry would give a better answer than that which will come out of horse-trading between the boroughs.

During the Committee stage of the Bill, I have been puzzled by the behaviour of the Government. I well understand their desire to stand firm on opting out. It is quite right that there should be no surrender on the matter of compulsory subjects in the curriculum. However, the doggedness that has been extended to every single word and phrase in the Bill has been remarkable.

Why are the Government so inflexible? Are they worried that people will doubt their virility, or (since I see the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, sitting there, and she may accuse me of a sexist remark) are they worried that people will doubt their steely femininity? Last night, at a very late hour, Peers from every side of the Committee were arguing in favour of a proposal that two students rather than one should be members of higher education bodies. Peers were astonished at the way in which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—such a reasonable man—stonewalled again and again. In the end, all that he could say was that he might bring the matter to the attention of his right honourable friend the Secretary of State. I put it to the Minister that the amendment is comparable to Amendment No. 241A, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady David, last night.

What is the situation which we are discussing? It is this. The Government found themselve forced to take precipitate action during the Committee stage of the Bill in another place. That happens in the best-regulated families. Here we have a chance not to go back on the basic decision but rather to sort out the consequences of that decision. I speak for myself when I say that I do not put as much store as some of my fellow signatories to the amendment on the part of the amendment which deals with the assessors. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept the spirit of the amendment and put forward a proposal for an independent inquiry. I hope that she will not declare that the amendment is an illegitimate baby. If she does, I shall make the time-honoured excuse of the nurse in "Midshipman Easy": It was only a very little one". I implore the Minister not to smother this very little amendment.

Baroness Hooper

Perhaps it will be helpful to the Committee if I intervene at this stage. My noble friend the Lord Privy Seal will speak at the end of the debate on this group of amendments. He will then respond to many specific points which have been raised in the course of our discussions. However, I believe that it will be useful at this point for me to remind the Committee of some of the background to the Government's proposals and say something about their implications and what action has been taken. I hope that that will go some way towards meeting the appeal made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark and the points raised by the noble Lords, Lord Kilmarnock and Lord Annan.

The Government have put forward their proposals for two reasons. The first is out of concern over the educational standards achieved by ILEA in important aspects of its provision. The second is the fact that ILEA's persistently high levels of expenditure place an unacceptable burden on the local people who have to fund the service.

Let me be quite clear. I do not want to belittle the real achievements of ILEA. For example, HMI has expressed a high opinion of aspects of further education and adult education. I might add that if that provision had not been good, there would have been something terribly amiss, given the fact that it costs the ratepayer so much—more than three times the cost of the provision made by any other LEA in the case of adult education. But for the moment I want to concentrate on the schools, which are after all the area of education of most concern to parents and employers. If a child's years of compulsory schooling—and perhaps especially the last few years—are unsatisfactory, that is a loss that it is hard to regain.

The evidence from HMI is that ILEA's nursery provision is good; that its primary schools are no more than middling, and that its secondary schools, taken as a whole, are poor. The figures are well known: HMI has found that 40 per cent. of classes in secondary schools are unsatisfactory or poor. So despite all the money spent, children in inner London are likely to suffer a declining standard of education as they go through the school system. At the heart of that system, the point at which the effectiveness of the whole system is judged, are the secondary schools; and it is here that ILEA has simply been failing the children of inner London.

I want to concentrate on the positive way in which we can build an improved service in inner London, retaining what is good from what exists at present. But I fear that I have to emphasise to the Committee the urgency of the Government's case. I think that it is particularly important to remember that in relation to the amendments which affect the time-scale.

In the final year of compulsory education the level of absenteeism, for whatever reason, is almost 30 per cent. across ILEA as a whole. In some schools it is much worse. More than 20 per cent. of young people in inner London leave school without any qualifications whatsoever. Barely 15 per cent. of school-leavers achieve the equivalent of five or more O-levels. Those results, I fear, underline the figure in the recent Gallup Poll, which showed that 54 per cent. of inner London parents would send their children to independent schools if they could afford it. That is hardly a ringing endorsement of the standards achieved by ILEA.

We are told on the one hand that those weaknesses are endemic in inner London and that even the simple prevention of further deterioration requires continued high expenditure. On the other hand we are told that the weaknesses can be removed given a little more time. But ILEA has been reprieved time and again, and yet no improvement has come about. It is now more than seven years since my noble friend Lord Carlisle demanded that the authority set its house in order. Since then there have been reports, inquiries and guidance galore. But in the classroom, which is what matters, all too little has changed.

Turning now to the question of ILEA's costs, we shall no doubt be told, and we have been told, about the costs of the Metropolitan Police or the fact that education in London has historically always been more expensive than elsewhere. Such statements may offer excuses but they do not provide reasons. However one looks at it, ILEA's expenditure is vastly out of line compared with other inner city authorities having to make provision to meet similar types of problem.

One could perhaps understand some disparity between inner London's costs and those of the rest of the country. But teaching staff costs for metropolitan districts average about £530 a child, for the outer London boroughs £590 and for ILEA £730. For primary support staff the comparable figures are £110, £130 and for ILEA £230. For secondary schools support staff costs, the figures are £120, £160 and for ILEA £370. For central administration and inspection the figures per head of population are £.13, £17 and for ILEA £36. Those figures shed an interesting light on the notion of economies of scale, about which the defenders of ILEA are so vocal.

ILEA has repeatedly failed to improve either its educational or its financial performance. Other metropolitan districts and the outer London boroughs have shown what can be achieved, both educationally and financially, by a smaller authority. Even some of the outer London boroughs which have achieved a certain notoriety for one reason or another manage to perform better than ILEA.

Of course to break with an organisation which has grown up over a long period of time is inevitably painful. It would be wrong to minimise the difficulties. But on its record there is no evidence whatsoever that the retention of ILEA will improve the educational prospects of young people in inner London or ease the financial burden on local people. If we timidly shirk our responsibility at this point we shall be failing hundreds of thousands of young people in inner London. That is not something which can be lightly contemplated.

I should like now to remind the Committee of the action that has been taken so far. As soon as the policy now embodied in the Bill was announced, we set up an Inner London Unit within the Department of Education to help boroughs plan the transfer. My right honourable friend has held preliminary discussions with virtually all the boroughs, and DES officials have had very detailed meetings with some of them.

Three weeks ago the DES issued draft guidance to the boroughs (to which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, referred) on the development plans that they will have to publish by the end of next February, setting out in some detail the way in which they propose to take on education responsibilities. That draft is intended to form the basis of full discussions with all the boroughs and with ILEA—and indeed with other interested parties, including the Churches—over the next few months, so that a final and more comprehensive version may be issued as soon as possible after the Bill receives Royal Assent. The draft received the accolade of criticism from ILEA itself for being simultaneously too detailed and insufficiently detailed. I suspect that means that, for a preliminary draft, we have got it about right. But we are listening to the comments and we can improve the draft with the co-operation of all those concerned with educational provision in inner London.

I should like to remind the Committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, has already done, that at least three boroughs—Wandsworth, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea—are now well advanced in their planning to become local education authorities in April 1990. They have held public meetings, consultation with schools and colleges, issued consultative documents and policy statements, appointed advisers and in some cases education officers designate, and have begun to draw up in outline their development plans. Many Members of the Committee will have seen the helpful leaflet published last week by Wandsworth. That sets out clearly the progress it has made and demolishes any of the arguments of those who believe that the boroughs are not capable of their new responsibilities.

Tower Hamlets, under Liberal control, and the City of London are catching up fast with the Conservative boroughs. What others have done, the Labour-controlled boroughs can do also. They have as long to prepare for their new responsibilities as the outer London boroughs following the London Government Act 1963. They are, however, awaiting a signal from your Lordships that they will indeed receive those new responsibilities. It is vital in the interest of the pupils, students and staff of inner London that that signal is given clearly today to remove any lingering doubts and uncertainty, which can only be damaging.

There is of course no dispute that full discussion, careful planning and review are needed in relation to many aspects of provision before the detailed arrangements can be settled. That is indeed why we issued the draft guidance a few weeks ago and why the Government have made available a specific grant of £13 million over the next two years to help the boroughs prepare for their new responsibilities. That money will be used to appoint consultants, to make preliminary appointments to the education department, to consult local people, to draw up the development plan and in short to set in hand the wide range of action necessary as a preliminary to becoming a local education authority.

That action by the Government is in line with the advice of the Controller of the Audit Commission, who has pointed out the need for the boroughs to put their new management structures in place as quickly as possible and to take advice from outside help, including external consultants, in doing so. I take encouragement from his words: There is a refreshing breeze of reality blowing through London's town halls but there is an enormous amount of hard work ahead if London is once again to have local administration of which it can be proud". As I have said on other occasions, I very much hope that Members opposite will use their best endeavours in their contacts with local councils in inner London to impress on them the need to take this task seriously.

I said earlier that I wanted to demonstrate that the problems which some Members of the Committee have foreseen and raised questions on in relation to particular aspects of ILEA's provision can be resolved. We are making progress in the following respects.

Many within this Chamber and beyond have praised the quality of much of ILEA's adult education. The Government accept that the adult education service makes a valuable contribution in inner London. We believe however that there is no reason why the bulk of adult education should not be effectively organised on a borough basis. That is what happens in every other metropolitan area of the country, and there is really no reason why, in inner London, what is essentially a very local service, responding to local needs, should not be locally organised. That may mean some rejigging of the boundaries of adult education institutes, and discussions will plainly need to be held about that, but there need be no major upheaval. This argument comes across strongly in the Wandsworth leaflet, to which I have referred.

However, where inner London is different from other areas is in having several high quality adult education institutions which carry out a high proportion of advanced work and which have a national reputation. Three of the most important of these—Morley College, the Working Men's College and the Mary Ward Centre—are independent establishments, two of which receive at present a significant proportion of their funding in grant from ILEA. The City Lit, though a maintained institution, is often linked with the other three. Each of these colleges makes a vitally important contribution to adult education in London—and indeed, much more widely. We accept that the future of these colleges must be safeguarded beyond doubt. After 1990, the assisted colleges will of course be able to realise their independence more fully. They will be able to revise their system of fees in a way that ILEA has prevented them from doing and they will be free to seek private sponsorship. The department will be encouraging them to look at those possibilities.

Plainly, any changes cannot be made overnight, and my right honourable friend will therefore be prepared to direct the London Residuary Body to pay grants to the colleges as necessary to maintain an effective level of funding. By the time the London Residuary Body itself has been wound up, we would expect the colleges to be much closer to being self-financing. However I want to make it quite clear that, to the extent necessary, the Government will be prepared to continue to provide financial support to these institutions to ensure that they can maintain their present high standards. Such support will of course be dependent on evidence that the colleges have genuinely made every effort to increase their income from other sources.

The City Lit, as a maintained college, is in a different situation. But its record is no less distinguished than that of the assisted colleges. We have been reminded that it houses the Centre for the Deaf. The Government believe that central funding will be required for the City Lit also. Its main premises are located in Camden, and we shall be discussing with that borough what arrangements would be best. But it may be that it would be appropriate for responsibility for the City Lit also to pass to the LRB while arrangements are made for it to be treated on a par with the assisted colleges to which I have referred.

All this means that the future of adult education in inner London—both the mainstream work in the adult education institutes and the more specialised work in the assisted colleges—is secure. The Government stand squarely behind the colleges. There are of course many details to sort out, and we look forward to doing so at an early date in joint discussion with all the inner London boroughs.

There has also been a strong campaign in support of ILEA's provision for the musically gifted. The Government accept that ILEA's provision has in many respects been of a high standard, and particularly that the Centre for Young Musicians based in Pimlico School and the London Schools' Symphony Orchestra have a deservedly high reputation. The generality of instrumental tuition will, under our proposals, become the responsibility of the boroughs in inner London, as indeed it is in outer London and elsewhere. However, in order to maintain the high standards which depend upon bringing together large numbers of gifted young people, we believe that co-ordination, particularly of the arrangements for tuition of more advanced pupils, is required.

I am pleased to be able to tell the Committee that the department has held discussions with representatives of Westminster City Council, which is, of course, likely to become responsible for Pimlico School and therefore for the Centre for Young Musicians. Westminster has expressed a strong interest in taking a lead borough responsibility for organising such provision across inner London. We shall be discussing further the detailed arrangements with Westminister, and other boroughs will be invited to join in determining how best to ensure that the quality and scope of existing provision is maintained and indeed enhanced. In essence we envisage a central team of music advisers liaising with the music advisers in other boroughs to help maintain the CYM and the London Schools' Symphony Orchestra. Other councils may also have specific contributions to make to these arrangements, and we hope that they will. The involvement of one or more of the London music colleges, for example, would not only safeguard existing standards, but could provide an exciting opening for further developments.

We envisage that most of the costs of such an arrangement will be met by the boroughs, but the Government would be prepared to consider some topping up finance if necessary. We now look forward to exploring these arrangements in more detail.

Another area to which much reference has been made in the circumstances of inner London is the contribution made by the voluntary organisations, and particularly those concerned with youth work. We entirely accept the importance of that contribution. I myself have held a series of meetings with representatives of many of the main youth bodies to consider jointly with them the best way forward in the context of the Government's proposals. Of course, at the moment the great majority of this work is carried out at a very local level anyway, and it will be entirely appropriate for local organisations to look to their local council for support. The Government's proposals will make possible closer co-operation between education departments responsible for the youth service and other departments and agencies in the boroughs with related concerns. One of the effects of such interagency co-operation in authorities in other parts of the country has been to raise the level of local concern with the needs of young people and to broaden the financial base of youth work, especially in the inner cities. This would be a timely new development in inner London. The Committee will also be aware of the very significant contribution by central government—the Department of Education and Science, the DHSS and the Home Office—to local voluntary work. Grants from the DES alone currently amount to over £16 million across the country as a whole.

We recognise also that the headquarters organisations of some of the inner London voluntary bodies play an important role in co-ordinating provision across the capital. In recognition of that contribution, the Government propose to make available additional interim funding of £500,000 a year for three years from 1990 for distribution to these bodies. That would allow the voluntary organisations time to assess the scope for raising more money from the boroughs and from the private sector. I believe that this announcement will therefore be widely welcomed and will meet many of the concerns that have been expressed over the difficulties during the transitional period.

We have recognised also that the Horniman and Geffrye Museums are a valuable asset to London, and indeed to the country as a whole. I see that later this evening we shall be discussing an amendment dealing specifically with the museums. The Government accept that it would not be reasonable to ask the boroughs in which these museums are located to bear the cost of maintaining them, except perhaps in relation to their specifically educational functions. Equally, however, it would not be appropriate for them simply to be submerged and lose their identity in one of their larger neighbours, such as the V&A or the Museum of London.

We therefore propose to ensure that both are established as independent trustee bodies, encouraged so far as possible to secure maximum possible support from the private sector, but with an assurance of government support initially through the London Residuary Body and subsequently from the Museums and Galleries Commission. The precise details of the way in which these arrangements will be carried out will of course need to be the subject of discussion with the museums themselves; it might be, for example, that it would be sensible for them on a temporary basis to pass on to the LRB while the necessary trusts were drawn up. We shall have to see about that.

What I have said will make it quite clear, however, that the museums have a secure future as independent institutions with an assurance of support from central government grant. I am sure that the many Members of the Committee who have been concerned about the Horniman and Geffrye Museums will welcome that.

I have spoken at some length. Even so, I doubt whether I have fully fulfilled the Lady Macbeth quotation. However, I hope that what I have said will have provided some measure of reassurance that the Government's proposals and timescales are necessary and practicable, and that important aspects of provision about which we are all concerned will be safeguarded for the benefit of the people of inner London and, indeed, of the whole country.

4 p.m.

Lord Peston

Before the noble Baroness sits down, may I ask her one question? I should simply like to put it as a question and perhaps the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal will answer it in due course. But it is germane to this amendment.

The noble Baroness referred to the urgency of the Government's case. We have asked on many occasions what happened educationally between the original publication of the Bill and the sudden decision that it was a matter of absolute urgency to abolish ILEA. What happened educationally to cause the Government to come to that decision?

Baroness Hooper

The Government, as a listening government, listened to the many comments on this subject that were made.

Noble Lords


Lord Goodman

Before the noble Baroness sits down, there is one item of information that I seek which is probably easier to give than the answer to the last question. Can she tell us what cost would be involved in acceding to the delay sought by this amendment?

Baroness Hooper

All the procedures would be delayed and slowed down. Everything would grind to a halt. It is very difficult to estimate such factors at this moment of time. However, we believe that the need to settle the doubts and uncertainties that have arisen in inner London, perhaps in particular with teachers, means that there is an urgency about this case and that it is important that we get on with the job.

Lord Goodman

The noble Baroness will recognise that that is an argument and not an answer.

The Lord Bishop of London

Perhaps I may first welcome the assurances which have been given by the Minister. I have heard what she has said with encouragement—and I mean that. However, I still have grave reservations about the procedure. I should like to develop them and then to return to some of the points.

Perhaps I may first remind Members of the Committee that the debate today is about education. It is about people. It is about those who teach and those who learn. Of course one cannot have education without politics, finance and administration, but we must always remember that they must be subservient to the overall objective of education; that is, to enable people to fulfil their potential in the right way for them. Seven of the 10 districts about which we are talking today are seven of the 10 most depressed districts in our country. We are not talking about any area in England or Wales: we are talking about London, which has very particular problems of its own.

Reference has been made to the abolition of the GLC. It is not quite accurate to say that its passing was unnoticed. I know that only too well through the withdrawal of funding for many voluntary organisations as a result of the abolition of the GLC, and the problems which we face because of the absence of any one statutory authority to which the voluntary agencies can relate. Frankly, the idea that voluntary co-operation will suffice is simply not true to facts. I am not sure whether I have ever quoted the 39 Articles of Religion to your Lordships' Committee before.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

Do not start now!

The Lord Bishop of London

I shall start now because it is rather an important quotation. As I have no doubt the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, will remember immediately, one of the articles speaks about the infection which "doth remain … in them that are regenerated". That is a very salutary point to have in mind because it reminds us that any system, any government, has to be operated by fallible people like you and me. Therefore, to rely wholly on voluntary co-operation often does not produce the required results.

We are talking about people. At this very moment I am thinking of the children in the primary school that I was visiting last week—where, I may add, the worship was very distinctly Christian. I am also thinking of the children of a wide range of ages in the adventure playground that I was visiting the week before last in one of our areas where it is almost the only provision that is made in which they can exercise and find leisure, and so on.

I am thinking of teachers whom I have met who are deeply worried at the moment. I am thinking of people who are involved in the whole education process. I am thinking of people I know in schools who are concerned not only about the matters that the Minister has mentioned but, for example, the education welfare service. I am thinking of one school which has a large proportion of families in need of counselling and care. In a school of 500 pupils there are seven girls on the risk register for physical or sexual abuse, 21 who have made the initial report of abuse as yet uncorroborated, 14 manifesting severe emotional difficulties, eight known to have one or other parent who is alcoholic, and seven under stress because of mental illness at home. They need the education welfare service. The teachers want to be assured that this will continue to be provided and will not simply be subject to the chance of whether they happen to be in this or that borough.

I simply give Members of the Committee one or two examples of the kind of problems about which we are talking today.

Baroness Faithfull

Perhaps the right reverend Prelate will allow me to intervene. On the education welfare service, his information and mine vary slightly. I am in touch with a school in one of the worst boroughs in London which has not had a visit from an education welfare officer since last year, and which has a high delinquency and truancy rate.

The Lord Bishop of London

I am grateful for what the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, says, but I can assure her that this school uses the service a great deal—perhaps too much at the expense of others. But certainly it is used, if not perhaps as widely as it should be.

The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, in proposing the amendment, mentioned the great state of uncertainty that exists at the moment. Some of your Lordships may have seen a letter to the papers recently which said that in the case of four primary schools in the East End, one head left for Somerset, one is leaving for Kent and a third is teaching, and our own Church primary head has contracted a very severe illness. Of the nine schools in our area, six are without a head teacher, or will be by the summer. This indicates the situation that we face at the moment.

When we look to the future it is insecure. I tried very hard to work out what the effect will be of the community charge, of the housing Bill, and, coupled with this, of the devolution to the boroughs, in terms of the expenditure available to the boroughs for education. Frankly, I find it impossible to work out the answer. I do not know how the boroughs will plan if they have to take on these great additional responsibilities.

This is the main point of what I want to say. The noble Baroness stressed that the Government's concern was with the schools. But her answers about other things—and we are very glad to hear them—do not touch the schools. That is where attention is needed. What is the answer? We do not know. The Minister may say that there is no evidence that to continue ILEA in its present form will improve standards. But there is no evidence to show that devolution to the boroughs will improve standards either. We just do not know.

We have had plenty of reviews. I have read them, some of them with partial affection, which is a phrase of which we are reminded in our prayers here in the House. So far as I am aware, nobody has actually sat down in an impartial way and looked at all these reviews. Much of the evidence is there. Much of it needs checking. It needs a dispassionate look to decide what is the best way for education in London.

This amendment does not attempt to remove Clause 141 of the Bill. What it says is that we need to be quite certain of the way we are going, and we cannot be certain of that with something which is, as it were, brought in on the way. Much testing still needs to be done. We need a single authoritative survey using much of the existing material.

I do not believe that this need cause very much delay. Boroughs which want to go ahead and which are going ahead now can still go ahead with their development plans. They can put them in evidence to the review. There is no reason why they should not do that. This would presumably help them if they are good plans and will help the review in coming to its conclusion. We have, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, said, set the date very clearly, and with a competent chairman they could get down to work quickly.

I do not believe that my amendment need cause any delay. Rather by the date set in the Bill as it stands a competent, authoritative, dispassionate review from a non-political standpoint could be achieved and that is what is urgently necessary. What needs to be dealt with on a unitary basis and what does not? As I said, I do not believe that we have any evidence that the proposals before us will actually improve standards. What we need is more evidence to encourage us to think that a particular way will do so. As I said, I do not believe that this amendment will cause delay. It is not a wrecking amendment. It is an amendment which will enable us to make a responsible decision. Meanwhile there is nothing to hold back the movement that is going on.

I should just like for a moment to mention one or two points that I made earlier about schools. I do not want to delay things, because those schools that I mentioned want an answer. They want to know where they are going. They want to know what the future holds in hand. The adventure playground that I visited is solely dependent at the moment upon ILEA, which has a valuable site which it is willing to hold and make available to this admirable institution which has two paid workers but is otherwise maintained by voluntary help. There are day and residential centres which do invaluable work for those living in London who are able to go out and get their horizons enlarged. It is not an expensive way. It is a very sensible way. The future of some of those activities would be in jeopardy.

I have not attempted to say that we should not abolish ILEA. I have not even attempted to say that one solution is a reformed ILEA. What I have said is that to come to this decision we need more evidence. At the moment the Government have made certain assertions without any evidence to back them up, and particularly in the realm of schools that needs looking at, because it may well be that to retain ILEA would not improve standards in schools. But what evidence is there that devolving ILEA to all the boroughs—and it is all the boroughs, not just the few—would raise standards generally? These are some of the points we have to bear in mind and I ask the Committee to vote for this amendment, which does not delay, which gives us the evidence and which enables us to act in a responsible way.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

The right reverend Prelate seemed in the closing passages of his speech to realise the basic weakness of the amendment which he was supporting. He tried to evade the self-evident fact that if this amendment were to be put into the Bill it must inevitably produce considerable delay in the implementation of the Bill's provisions in respect of ILEA.

If the right reverend Prelate really understood the way in which local government worked, he would realise that once an inquiry of this sort was going to be set up with the authority of Parliament, inevitably the local authorities which are at the moment taking steps, and indeed incurring expenditure, in order to prepare themselves for taking over these responsibilities would feel bound to halt those preparations. They would feel it quite wrong to use their ratepayers' money in order to prepare for undertaking a task which they certainly would not be able to undertake for some time and might as the result of these proceedings never have to undertake.

As a result the right reverend Prelate must face the fact that if this amendment were to be accepted the major local authorities concerned, several of whom, as was admitted earlier in this debate, are taking energetic steps to prepare themselves for the very serious tasks which will be imposed upon them in taking over from ILEA, would halt their preparations and there would be delay and discouragement.

What about the employees of ILEA itself? We have heard this afternoon of the breakdown in morale, of the flight—that is the word used—of teachers from ILEA. If the whole matter is to be plunged again into uncertainty, if everybody concerned is supposed to wait until the five wise men proposed in one of these amendments have come to conclusions, their conclusions have been debated, as they would have to be in both Houses of Parliament, and the Government have finally come to a decision, it is quite evident that crippling uncertainty would continue for many years to come.

Therefore I beg the right reverend Prelate not to try to convince himself, as he was evidently trying to do, that adoption of these proposals would cause no delay. I think that the Committee, whatever view Members take of the merits of the issue, must face the clearly established fact that the effect—and I believe in some quarters the intention—of this amendment is to delay the whole operation. If it be thought that a delay is right and necessary, one can understand that point of view. But I think it is better, and it is treating your Lordships' Chamber better, to accept that openly and to say "Yes, we want to delay the coming into effect of changes which some of us do not like".

Indeed I have been impressed on previous occasions by the innate conservatism of Members opposite and their intense antagonism to change. One understands that and in many ways I rather admire it. But it must be faced that what we are concerned with is not just making some arrangements for a further intellectual assessment of some of the precise provisions of the Bill. What we are faced with is an attempt to delay this part of it coming into operation with a view to its never coming into operation. The Committee will then want to consider whether there has not been, and will not be anyhow, ample opportunity to go into—

Earl Russell

May I—

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I am sorry, not for the moment—the details of the Bill and of the necessary steps. Believe me, I fully realise how complex and how difficult they are. The Committee will want to consider whether there has not already been, and will not be before 1990, time to examine these matters. If the noble Earl wishes to intervene now I shall be happy to let him.

He obviously does not. I am much obliged. I shall give way to the right reverend Prelate.

The Lord Bishop of London

I did not intend to intervene, but I really must resist the suggestion which the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, made that the purpose of the amendment, so far as I am concerned, is to prevent it ever happening. That is not true. This is not a move to stop ILEA being reformed, being broken up. This is why I do not believe it involves delay. I do not accept the noble Lord's logic on that point. If the amendment were to give the retention of ILEA as one of the options, then I believe his arguments would hold. That is not what the amendment says. That is why I cannot accept his logic on this point. It is not intended, so far as I am concerned, to say that this is a way of stopping ILEA ever being abolished.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I am infinitely obliged to the right reverend Prelate for that brief intervention. One accepts the sincerity of what he said, but I can only remind him of the rule of law that a sane man is deemed to intend the natural consequences of his acts. The natural consequence of acceptance of the amendment inevitably, as anyone with any knowledge of public administration knows perfectly well, is a substantial delay in the operation of Clause 141 and the abolition of ILEA. Of course I accept that the right reverend Prelate does not want that, though I rather doubt whether some noble Lords opposite share that high-minded view. But I beg of him to understand that it is the inevitable consequence. Therefore if he presses it that is what he will do. That is what he is seeking to achieve. The result would be the continuance of ILEA for a considerable time with all the successor authorities being forced to abandon the preparations that they are at present so vigorously making.

I do not know whether the Committee really feel that that would be a happy or a satisfactory outcome. I do not want to go at any length into the merits, although the idea that education is a local service, locally administered, is one which is applied throughout the rest of the country. I cannot see why the inner London boroughs should be denied the opportunity and this right, and why parents and voters in those inner London boroughs should not have the same advantage of local administration of this vital service as is given everywhere else throughout the country. Therefore I suggest to the Committee that, given that consideration—given the accepted fact that ILEA's educational standards, particularly in the secondary schools, are very low in the national league table, that its costs (for whatever reason one might like to suggest) are very much higher, about double the national average—the case for a change here is overwhelming. It is an issue that the Committee ought not to seek to duck under the excuse of some further examination.

I commend to ILEA the words which Oliver Cromwell delivered to the Rump Parliament on 22nd January 1654: It is not fit you should sit here any longer—you shall now give place to better men". He added, and I add them for the benefit of the right reverend Prelate, these pungent words: You have no more religion than my horse".

Lord Stewart of Fulham

It seems to me that the reason we now have an amendment asking that a look be taken at what is proposed for ILEA and that we consider it at this stage is because the Government in their handling of this matter so far have rushed ahead without ever looking before they leapt. The noble Baroness said that the reason for the sudden change from what was originally proposed to a proposal for the outright abolition of ILEA was due to a surge of opinion demanding it. She knows very well that there was no such thing. There has never been any surge of opinion demanding the abolition of ILEA. Over and over again the issue has been before the citizens and parents of inner London and they have repeatedly shown their dislike of abolishing ILEA.

I believe that we ought to consider this point. If we really believe that the local education authority under which one lives is bad educationally and is expensive, what does one do? One votes, surely, for its political opponents who assure one that they could do it better.

One does not usually regard the abolishing of the authority itself as a remedy. I notice, for example, that the Sunday Times recently carried an article recommending the abolition of this House. A number of criticisms were made of the composition of the House of Lords. A number of criticisms were made, too, about the way it does its business. One was left wondering—since many of these criticisms had some force in them—why had the Sunday Times never noticed this before? The reason given was that recently this Chamber had been in the habit of being vexatious to the Conservative Government, and the Sunday Times, following the Government's attitude towards London, is that if any part of the political structure is offensive to the Conservative Party it ought to be abolished. That is the history of London government ever since the old LCC was destroyed.

The noble Baroness offered to us various cures for some of the problems that the Government's haste has created. The trouble was that they were all very partial, ill-thought-out cures: such as for the Horniman and Geffrye Museums. There was a reference to private generosity, to a certain amount of money that would be available from the Government, to something that the London Residuary Body might do; but at the end of the day nobody was certain who would be running those museums or in whose responsibility they would be. Surely, if the Government are so anxious to get on with the job quickly, why did they not give some thought to that matter earlier? They ought never to have begun on the proposal to abolish ILEA without considering such problems as I have envisaged concerning the Horniman and Geffrye Museums and the London Schools' Symphony Orchestra. Yet on every one of those we have only partial suggestions. We are suggesting now that we might have a further look to see what is involved in abolishing ILEA, with these cultural but important appendages of ILEA, cultural additions to its main work which are of great importance and are famous worldwide.

There is also the advantage that London has from the fact that the population is so dense. If I may be forgiven, I repeat here briefly and summarise an argument I put forward at Second Reading. In London there is the special feature of a large population in a comparatively small area. The advantage of a large population to an education authority is that there might be enough of the quite exceptional cases of the deaf, the autistic, the blind and so on to make it worth while to build up a really good service to deal with them.

This is a difficult problem for smaller authorities. If every authority were to have the population of London, most would be far too big on the map to be possible. The great advantage of London is that having the large population enables one to provide really good specialist services for special needs without the stretch on the map being so great as to be administratively unworkable. That was why the LCC, and ILEA after it, were extremely good authorities, and why it would have been impossible, despite determined attempts, to get the parents to vote against their continued existence. Exceptionally good services have catered for exceptional needs.

I recently received a letter from a lady whose child was stricken with meningitis when it was a baby. It survived, but is subject to epileptic fits. It is now, thanks to ILEA, in the junior department of a school, while previously it was in the nursery department; it is able to live a normal life and even to engage in swimming lessons, of which it is particularly fond. The mother says, "I cannot be too grateful to ILEA for what it has done for my child". She wants to know what happens next. The running of a nursery school is not a statutory business. The borough in which she lives is a poor one. There is no certainty that the school that has done so much for her child and for other children in the past will continue to exist.

The Government have not so far come forward with anything like an adequate explanation of what will happen. We are told that the boroughs will "get together". Of course they can get together and talk about it indefinitely. It still will not solve the problem of what one does with a school that, of its nature, must cater for children from all over London if it is to do its job properly, when apparently it has to be put into the area of one local authority only. This and a host of similar problems are left unanswered in the Bill as we now have it.

It may cause some delay if the problem is considered a little further. It is worth a small delay to get right some of the answers to these questions. We do not want to leave Londoners with the provision for the deaf, blind, autistic and handicapped all awry and misshapen. We do not want to leave London stripped of its cultural distinctions like the Horniman and Geffrye Museums. We do not want bodies like Morley College, the City Lit and the Mary Ward Centre to be handled, according to what we have heard from the Minister, in a way that yet again is a mixture of private generosity—something from the Government, something from the London Residuary Body, but no one to say exactly, or even in convincing outline, how it will work. We surely do not want to do that merely to save whatever time is needed to carry out the amendment.

I make no secret of the fact—many others think this, too—that I think the whole idea of abolishing ILEA is wrong, just as I thought the abolition of the LCC was wrong from the start. It is not surprising that no one mourned all that much for the GLC: it was a Tory creation, created because a Tory Government hoped that it would vote Tory and, when it did not, it was left almost without any friends. Before that there was the London County Council, whose administration, particularly of education, was well known the world over. We are now reaping part of the retribution of the wanton destruction of that body.

I hope that we shall not repeat the error. As I say, although I and, I believe, many others object to the abolition of ILEA, I recognise that the weight of opinion in the two Houses may in the end be against us. Even if that is so, it is not a reason for going ahead with so many practical, important questions unsolved, sketchily described and neglected as if they were of no great importance. It is to avoid that that I ask the Committee to support the amendment.

Baroness Young

The issue before the Committee is whether there should be a delay in implementing this part of the Bill. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter has made absolutely clear the great dangers of that move.

Perhaps I may say that the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Southwark, are—I do not impugn their motive about this—being disingenuous if they really believe that putting off a decision about this matter until next April means that a decision would be taken then. We would be in the same position then as we are today, with all the other matters that would follow from it, and there would be a considerable delay. The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, has so obligingly reminded us that he does not want to see the abolition of ILEA in any event, and would of course gladly vote for the delay, because that is what he thinks it would mean.

I think that the Committee should be under no illusions about this at all: of course the delay would have disastrous consequences. It has been pointed out to me by many people in the inner London boroughs to whom I have spoken about the matter, that delay would not stop the anxieties in the education world; rather, it would increase them. Good staff, good administrators and good teachers would leave, and difficult decisions would be taken either in "stronger" boroughs or, indeed, in "weaker" boroughs. Indeed, a kind of planning blight would descend on the whole authority and no decisions of any consequence would be taken at all, with all the consequences that that would have for children.

Noble Lords who have spoken have made much of what will happen, but one must not forget what the present situation is. It is a very serious one, with low standards and criticisms of secondary schools. As my noble friend Baroness Hooper properly pointed out, children are leaving school without any qualifications, totally ill-equipped to face the world of work. Against that background we have to see whether or not we can do better.

One question that can justifiably be put to boroughs is how they think they might improve matters. I shall take two issues which seem to me to be helpful. The first is for them to try to deal with the truancy levels, which are now running at 30 per cent. across London secondary schools, with some even higher.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London referred to the educational welfare services. These will of course continue. One of the advantages of the boroughs is that, in their way, they are becoming all-purpose authorities: they have social services as well. They are therefore in a position to effect a much closer link between education and social services where this is required. The second point is for them to recruit and to keep good teachers.

One problem was mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark; that is, the difficulty of getting teachers and the cost of housing. The London boroughs are of course housing authorities. They would therefore be in a position to find some housing for teachers more easily than ILEA. To speak from my own experience, when I was in a local authority—it was an old county borough that was an education and housing authority—we used to provide council houses for key staff at least on a temporary basis until they found something else. This is the kind of thing that a well organised authority ought to be able to do. That would be a positive measure. Nor has real evidence been produced that the poorer authorities would be incapable of running their education authorities. The poor London boroughs that run their own education at present seem to manage perfectly well.

One must remember that the authorities will be subject to the national curriculum, to the procedures of testing and assessment and to all the other matters that have been debated in the course of the Bill. However, if we compare ILEA with authorities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham—all of which have the enormous inner city problems of ethnic minorities, many languages and so on—we find that they manage to produce better results with less money. I believe that one needs to ask oneself why London is so expensive and has such bad results when others do better.

A further criticism has been on the whole question of cross-borough services; many people have referred to it. It is not unknown in local education authorities for children from one authority to be educated in another and to use the services of another authority. To hear the arguments put forward, anyone would think that that is something unique to London. It happens in an enormous number of places and is happening all over the country today. Indeed, the 1980 Education Act made that easier and simpler and I have no reason to believe that it will not continue.

The noble Lord, Lord Stewart, talked of a cultural collapse with the ending of ILEA. My noble friend Lady Hooper has rightly pointed out that the Government have very much in mind those organisations which will continue and I have no doubt that we shall hear more on that front. However, we were threatened with cultural collapse with the end of the GLC and we have not yet experienced it, so once again I have no doubt that this is an acute fear which is being stirred up to make everybody's flesh creep—certainly the parents'—which is not very helpful in the situation.

The last point I should like to make is that I believe it would be most unfortunate if it was thought that those who were against this amendment and who believe that the education of London's children will be better provided when it is devolved to the boroughs, as is the case in every other part of the country, are somehow politically motivated and not interested in the education of the children. I believe that everybody taking part in this debate wants to see the education of the children improved. The results in London's secondary schools are not a kindness to the children involved. There is a duty to maintain those services which are good and to improve those which are falling well below the acceptable standards. This has been introduced because of the importance of raising those standards and giving the inner city children in London similar opportunities to those children elsewhere.

If there is a Division on this amendment, which in a sense is a wrecking amendment for this part of the Bill, I hope that the Committee will reject it because further delay will not improve education. It will simply delay it, prolong the anxiety and mean that nothing good will be done for a long period of time to come.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Goodman

I hope that I shall be acquitted of any of the sinister and ulterior motives attributed to the Benches on my right. I have no wish to prevent this Bill from passing. I feel strongly that some portions of it are desirable. However, I have one particular motive for being here today. I represent one interest which I believe is greatly endangered and, with respect, I have to contradict what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said when he suggested that arrangements were advanced and well advanced in many areas. In respect of the matters with which I am concerned I have authentic and incontrovertible proof that they are not advanced.

I am here as president of the London Union of Youth Clubs and also as the chairman of one particular youth club which was inspired and originated by my Oxford College. No arrangements at all exist for that very vital service which may seem to be a peripheral one. However, it is a service which involves hundreds of young people. It concerns keeping them off the streets and whether or not they grow into civilised, law abiding human beings or into louts who end up in our prison population. That it has no significant arrangements made on its behalf is extremely serious.

I would not wish to vote either for or against this amendment if the noble Baroness or anyone else from the Government were able to assure me that something satisfactory and realistic will be carried out. Guidelines were published which were almost an insult. They did not give the slightest indication of where to go for the money or what comparisons should be made among the different councils. The youth club movement is not a political one. In my youth club I would venture to suggest that one of the trustees sits on the Government Benches and all the other trustees, if they vote at all, vote Conservative. I am equally convinced that the staff of that club are not nihilists, Maoists or communists. They are people who have given a great deal of time and thought to maintaining this vital service.

I say that guidelines have been published, but they are absolutely useless. I am prepared to submit them to anyone on the Government Benches and they can see that there is no guidance at all as to what sum of money will be available to replace the money needed to maintain the club.

In the club of which I speak a great amount of money has been raised by volunteers. We have built a roof garden and an annexe. The other day we had a splendid Royal visit to a children's centre which has been established to enable disabled children between the ages of four and eight to come to play two or four hours a week. It is that sort of project which is endangered by—I can almost say—the mad haste with which the arrangements are being made.

I do not have the least wish to prevent this measure from passing. As I say, it is sensible to recognise, even if one is as large as I am, that a steamroller will destroy you. I am satisfied that the steamroller which can be organised by the Government will be able to cope, even with me. However, I appeal to the Government for something to be announced because otherwise I shall have to vote for this amendment. I have no more wish to vote for this amendment than any other amendment. However unless this organisation is protected, I shall be failing in my duty to a body for which I have worked for years and for which many people have worked for longer.

Baroness Seear

I shall refrain from making a long speech but there are questions I wish to ask the noble Baroness and I shall limit myself to asking questions. If it is so urgent that these measures should be carried out because the state of ILEA is so bad, why—and we have had no answer to this—was it not in the manifesto and in the original Bill? The noble Baroness tells us that they are a listening Government. They have listened to Messrs. Heseltine and Tebbit but not listened to the parents of London. Those parents had their own ballot which the Government refused to support and which resulted in an overwhelming majority for the retention of ILEA. If I may say so, the Government have very partial hearing.

Secondly, what is going to happen to the financing of the schools in the poorer boroughs when ILEA has been disbanded? We have said all along that we wish to raise the level of education in this country. We need to raise it particularly for the non-academic children, and there are a great many of them in the boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth and Tower Hamlets. Can we have a clear statement from the noble Baroness as to where the money is coming from when ILEA is not there—and nor will be the money that the ratepayers of Chelsea, Westminster, and so on, have previously put into the kitty which has gone to the poorer boroughs? How will that be replaced? Without that money there will be sink schools. The teachers will leave. We have talked about teachers leaving and they will leave a great deal quicker than they have in the past unless there is adequate financing.

Thirdly, as president of Morley College I was delighted to hear the compliments given to that college and to its sister organisation mentioned by the noble Baroness. However, she went on to say that after a period of time no doubt those colleges would be able to raise a large amount of their finance from the private sector, from earning their keep and standing on their own feet. I wonder whether the noble Baroness is aware that at present one third of the students at Morley College are reduced fee-paying students because they are either old age pensioners, unemployed or people who are not in a position to pay. Unless considerable sums of money can be raised the whole character of the college will change. It is the essence of the work of the college that London-wide it is providing both high standards in such matters as music and art but also is determined to meet community needs for people in great need and difficulty who urgently need the advantages of adult education for a whole variety of reasons which I shall not go into.

Does the noble Baroness really believe that those colleges will be able to maintain themselves by putting up their fees—which is what she means—and raising money from trusts and foundations? Of course they will endeavour to do that. However, that does not begin to answer the problem. I should like to have satisfactory answers to those questions from the noble Lord the Leader of the House if he is to reply to this debate.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

The case for the speedy abolition of ILEA is overwhelming and I do not want to dwell on it further this afternoon. It is well known to everyone.

The only thing that ILEA is good at is bogus propaganda in trying to extend its own life. For example, I refer to its ludicrous parents' poll. That was conducted at public expense in ILEA schools, backed by massive ILEA propaganda. A weird weightage of voting was given according to the number of children that parents had at an ILEA school. ILEA then claimed that 93 per cent. of the parents in the poll were in favour of ILEA. In fact, only 72,500 out of ILEA's 475,000 parents voted at all.

Recently the Committee passed an amendment to the effect that when a school wishes to opt out of control of its local authority there must be a majority of all those who could have voted; not just a simple majority of those who voted. 1LEA's self-preservation poll hardly satisfies that standard. A much better guide is the Gallup poll published in the Daily Telegraph on Monday. That said that 63 per cent. of all Londoners are not at all worried about the abolition of ILEA. It is true that 47 per cent. expressed concern (that is, of inner Londoners, not Londoners in general) but 49 per cent. were not worried. It is surprising that after all the propaganda put out by ILEA the majority, even of inner Londoners, do not back its continuance.

The bogus polls conducted by ILEA are reminiscent of the bogus polls conducted by the GLC when we were told of all the ghastly horrors that would occur if that magnificent ornament of public government were to be abolished. The GLC has vanished. There is no clamour to bring it back. Everyone is getting on very nicely without it. It will be the same when ILEA has gone into the dustbin of history.

The 13 new local education authorities could not do a worse job than ILEA. They have every chance of doing a much better one. The Government propose to give the new authorities two years to make plans for running the schools within their areas. One can do an awful lot in two years. It is half the length of the First World War. The Government are right to speed up the process of abolition. Even some of the movers of this amendment assume that ILEA must go. A dying authority is useless and it can have very nasty death throes.

I was surprised that my noble friend Lord Annan said that if the deed were to be done it should be done quickly. He then moved an amendment allowing for a very long delay before the deed occurred—perhaps not at all.

Lord Annan

Will the noble Lord give way? I said "three months".

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

That is not so. Once this amazing panel of assessors has been set up and it starts consulting everyone, the hands of the Secretary of State will be tied. He can do nothing about making new arrangements until he knows what the panel is proposing to him. Even then he has to decide whether or not he agrees that the panel has produced a good solution. There will then be another debate on all that. That may please all the education experts but it will do no good for children and their futures. It will just be a collection of experts advising and telling other experts what to do—and they would never agree, in any case.

I am a new Member of this Chamber. My understanding of our role is that we are to improve Bills sent to us by the other place, not to emasculate them. No doubt the general level of intelligence in this Chamber is higher than that in the other place.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

At least we have agreement on that. Members of the other place were elected, we were not. In making alterations to central parts of legislation passed by a majority in another place we run the risk of serious danger. We may say that we pass a major amendment only to give the Government and the other place the opportunity to reconsider the matter, but in practice we are holding up significant legislation which has been passed in the other place.

If ever there were another Labour Government, Labour Peers and the Labour Party would resent this practice very much. They would revise their policy of abolising your Lordships' House. Already a leading article in last week's Sunday Times advocated just that. Even a Conservative Government may not remain indefinitely tolerant.

That is not the only reason I am opposing the amendment. The speedy abolition of ILEA is essential for the better education of the children of inner London. We are compelling them to have a continually bad education the longer we delay it. It would be foolish of us to behave as though this were a great constitutional issue which puts the nation in danger and only this Committee can save it by passing the amendment. The nation is not in danger. What is in danger is the education of the children of inner London. The sooner that danger is removed, the better.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

I rise because, as I explained when the original announcement was made, I was probably the person most responsible for the paternity of ILEA in its present form, but it is time that my putative child should be put an end to within the time-scale allowed by Her Majesty's Government. I give my reasons.

There is no respectable body of opinion in this country except in regard to inner London which does not want education to be based on local authorities. The question we have to ask ourselves is why inner London should be privileged to have a different system of education from the rest of the country? I should have had a great deal more respect for the amendment if its supporters had taken the line, avowedly admitted by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, that it was bad to abolish ILEA and therefore it ought not to be abolished. However, from the moment that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, spoke it was obvious that that is not what the amendment says. If I may remind the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark it says, roughly speaking, what was said by St. Augustine of Hippo, which was: "Domine, fac castum sed non modo" please make me chaste, but give me a breathing space first!

The noble Lord, Lord Annan, quoted Lady Macbeth and her husband, but he should have remembered the words of Dr. Johnson: when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight it concentrates his mind wonderfully". The fact is that there is plenty of time to use before the abolition of this authority, which is entirely unexampled throughout the rest of the country and which, as my noble friend Lady Hooper said, has failed the ordinary children of London for the reasons given: partly because of its financial incompetence and partly because of the low standards of its education. It is not an answer for the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, to say, "Ah, but there are so many people with exceptional needs congregated in this highly populated area and we can make special arrangements for them", if the cost of that is to be at the expense of the ordinary school and the ordinary child.

What is ILEA? I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, was the only person who touched upon the truth. ILEA is the built-up area of 1888 which has about as much relevance to the educational needs of the country at the present time as the street plan of Pompei. It is a survival from the past. I preserved it not because it was a good education authority, but for reasons which I gave to the House when the announcement was made, namely, it was a question of bricks and mortar. The LCC, which is the area concerned, built its schools and, I must say because I was particularly concerned with them at the time, the polytechnics, and although they have disappeared from the Bill for reasons which have no relevance to what I am about to say, they are dealt with in Part III. But the bricks and mortar did not correspond to borough boundaries. More than 20 years have passed since then for Parliament to put this matter in order.

There is absolutely nothing in the obviously complex difficulties to which the abolition of ILEA, passed by the House of Commons, gives rise which cannot be dealt with either by trans-borough arrangements with suitable financial arrangements where the export of pupils exceeds the import and by the kind of provision which my noble friend Lady Hooper gave in her very carefully and properly prepared speech.

I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, defend the boys' clubs. I hope that proper provision will be made for them. On the basis of the present programme there are two years in which it can be done. The amendment is now asking us to invent a new quango of anonymous composition and therefore of unknown value, and to postpone the evil day which will therefore lead to increased uncertainty and increased delay. I can have no respect whatever for that proposition.

5 p.m.

Baroness Hart of South Lanark

I wish to speak very briefly and I rise in response only to what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I must declare a vested interest and I suspect that a number of Members of this Committee also have an interest. My first young grandchild began at a primary school in Hackney a week ago. The question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is a very demanding one and no one whom I have heard speaking from the other side opposing this amendment has come near to offering an answer to it. The question to which I am referring is this. How will a very poor borough finance education on an adequate scale for its children?

Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, that it is no answer at all to say that Kensington and Chelsea are doing very well. The noble Baroness may wish to give the comparative figures of the ratio of the child population to the adult population in those areas. Perhaps she will also give the proportion of the children of Kensington and Chelsea who are sent to fee-paying schools by their parents, often outside the London area altogether. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, made some play about what public opinion pollsters can do and also the statistician who attempts to produce tables in relation, for example, to the achievement in schools of children in the ILEA area. What account is taken of the relationship between school results and performance and the degree of deprivation, problem children and problem areas? There are a number of studies—I have seen at least two—which indicate very clearly that if one considers the relationship between the performance in London schools and the degree of problems faced by those schools and the children in them, compared with other parts of the country, the results are perfectly normal, at least in most areas.

I end on this point. I have always regarded the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, as an eminently reasonable person. It seems that he is bound to agree —

A noble Lord

Not all the time.

Baroness Hart of South Lanark

Most of the time. It seems that the noble and learned Lord must agree that, as compared with other parts of the Bill, less careful attention, preparation and thought can have been given to this part which has been added at a very late stage. The noble and learned Lord, if he is not indulging in perversity, is bound to agree that further study of this subject may be necessary. I believe that he is also bound to agree that within the terms set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, it might be possible for individual boroughs to come to some agreement on how to support and provide the specialised services, a number of which have been mentioned in Committee today.

It would seem advisable to most reasonable people that before the Bill becomes law it is clearly set out by the Government, whatever arrangements are to be the outcome, that there must be continuing and equally good provision for the handicapped of various kinds, for English literacy education for the ethnic groups—some of which takes place at Morley College—and for the continued provision of good music education, and the continued provision of services for young people. There is another need which I have not heard mentioned and to which I attach enormous importance; namely, the continued provision of good child-guidance services.

Without the undertaking by the Government that the arrangements to be made must satisfy those criteria, I suggest to the noble and learned Lord—as I say, I have always found him to have a considerable element of reasonable rationality—that the amendment being moved today gives the Government the opportunity to make those kinds of commitments and to see that those undertakings are met in whatever arrangements are achieved. The amendment also gives time for these matters to be studied in the way in which they should have been studied before the clause was added to the Bill.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

I must admit to a feeling of relief that we have come to that part of the Bill which deals with the ILEA, not primarily because we are now moving to within sight of the finishing post, but more because for almost the first time I believe it is possible to feel the firm rock of solid evidence under our feet.

When the Committee discussed the national curriculum, open enrolment and grant-maintained schools, we could to some extent at least indulge our fancies as to whether the proposed changes would be for the better or worse. Proof was hard to come by—it almost always is in education—and so speculation and anecdotal evidence, the lessons of past experience and a dash of prejudice here and there, were the order of the day. But with ILEA it is rather different.

The charges are that the authority produces bad results and that it is profligate. That is what the Secretary of State said in another place and we have heard it repeated again today. What is the evidence? The evidence for the former centres on secondary examination results. I believe it is common ground that these tell only a small part of the total story, but I shall not dwell here upon the excellent nursery, adult and further education provision and satisfactory primary provision besides the many cross-boundary services to which other speakers have already drawn attention.

Let us take the case at its admitted worst. In absolute terms ILEA exam results are almost at the bottom of the national league but anyone who has wrestled with performance indicators in education or in any other field, will know that this kind of raw statistic is meaningless. For example, does one close down a terminal cancer ward because the outcomes are uniformly bad? Before one judges an outcome one has to look at an input. In education this is not an easy exercise because there are so many variables. However it has been done. When allowance is made for the multiple disadvantages under which inner London suffers, the verdict is that ILEA's performance, compared with others, is middling; neither particularly good, nor bad.

Of course we know from other research—conducted, be it noted, by ILEA's own research and statistics branch whose future is now in jeopardy—that schools can make a difference, however dire the social need may be. The authority's performance could be up near the top of the league; however, by the same token, it could equally well be at the bottom. Do we have any other evidence—reliable evidence, not hearsay—about the state of ILEA's secondary education? As it happens, we do; and we have already heard about it. The verdict of the senior chief HMI in a recent report confirms the story told by the examination results: standards are patchy across the authority. However, "undistinguished" might perhaps be a good word with which to sum up his overall view of the situation because I do not think it is accurate to quote him as calling it "poor".

The situation is nothing to be proud of; much work remains to be done, and it is being done. However, it is a long way from the out-and-out condemnation on which the abolition case appears to rest. Are the 40-odd LEAs, which are placed below inner London in the league table I referred to, to be shaken up as well? It seems not.

Further, what about profligacy? Inner London spends about £2,600 per secondary pupil per annum, as against an LEA average of between £1,500 to £1,600. How can one accurately judge whether that is about right for the problems that London has to face—the unusually sharp fluctuations in pupil numbers and social structure in recent years; the greatly increasing incidence of first languages other than English (now about one in four); whether £2,600 is too much and whether—the possibility has to be considered—it may even be too little?

Perhaps the best that can be done in this connection is to look at what other inner London services spend in relation to the national average, as it is the essence of London which concerns us and not what happens in Liverpool or Leeds where, although things are not easy, they are different. As we have seen, educational spending is something over one and a half times the average. What are the comparable figures for the police? They are about twice the average. What about social services? They are three times the average. What happens when one looks at the unit costs of services provided by the inner London boroughs who are to take over the running of education? They are higher in relation to those of the outer London boroughs than ILEA's education costs are in relation to those same boroughs. Therefore it begins to look as though ILEA may not be quite as spendthrift in its inner city context as has been said. Further, it may be that future economies may not necessarily be looked for from the boroughs under the proposed new dispensation.

I cannot resist one further observation. When one looks at the cost of some of the independent day schools one is talking of a figure in the region of £3,000 plus. For example, I believe the fees for St. Paul's School for Girls are over £3,400 per annum. Of course I know that fees and unit costs are not exactly the same, but I should be surprised if there were that much difference between the two. However, I have not heard the Government tell independent schools that they are spending too much. I cannot for the life of me see why £3,400 is all right for a girl attending St. Paul's School, but is far too much for a girl attending an ILEA school.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

If the noble Lord will allow me to say a word, I should like to point out that my daughter attended St. Paul's School and it did not cost anything like £3,400.

A noble Lord

That was 60 years ago!

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

Without knowing how long ago that was, it is difficult for me to reply to the noble Lord.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

It was more recent than that—two years.

5.15 p.m.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

However, the difference is still an extremely large one. The figure is one which was recently given to me and I have no reason to think that it is incorrect. Of course prices in the independent schools have gone up, even in the past two years. However, be that as it may, the difference is a great one. It is the LEA average of under £1,600 which is perhaps the one which is out of step in this connection.

I have tried to keep to hard facts and figures. I know that the statistical comparisons are not perfect—they never are—but they have been published before and I am not aware that they have been seriously challenged. In my mind it all adds up to the fact that the case for the dismemberment of the ILEA is so weak that it could only be justified if the administrative arguments against a large unitary authority were overwhelming. However, as we know, that is just what the experts have never argued.

There are many aspects about ILEA which could be improved—there are no two ways about that. I remember as a 10 year-old a report which went up on the school noticeboard about the first football match in which I ever played. It said, "Baldwin was adequate". As I sped to look the word up in the dictionary I was pretty excited: I have never liked that word since. It could perhaps be the right word for ILEA in so far as one can categorise so diverse an enterprise.

I do not believe that anyone is saying that ILEA is above reproach, not even the chairman of the London Parents' Ballot Campaign, who writes of its "occasional wayward notions". Similarly, no one is excusing the examples of waste and inefficiency. However, thoroughly bad ILEA is demonstrably not; and the evidence does not suggest that overall it is profligate. Of course I could continue about the odds against anything better being provided by the individual boroughs, for all their enthusiasm, and about the great value of the central services, but I shall leave that subject to other speakers.

My main reason for speaking on the issue, as an educationalist, is to re-emphasise the quite firm evidence that we have about the authority's performance in what is acknowledged to be its worst area; to suggest that in the light of this the case for abolition has not begun to be made out; to note with dismay that the Government solution appears, once again, to be to change the system which looks good politically but which usually leaves the real issues untouched and to express my agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, that his amendment now offers the best way forward.

Lord Bellwin

It is hard to get a word in in these long debates but I must say that the feeling of déjà vu is rather mind-boggling. This is almost exactly where I came in on the GLC debate. Here we have it all again: the panoply; the propaganda; the campaigns, and so on. We even had a Petition arriving on the day of the debate; the whole thing is there in place and, of course, the spending of the money on such campaigns is at the poor ratepayers' expense. What a picture it paints, and what a shambles! I am glad of the opportunity—

Lord Tordoff

The noble Lord has suggested that the campaign is at the ratepayers' expense. Surely, so far as the London Parents' Ballot is concerned, that is not the case. The London Parents' Ballot Campaign was paid for by that organisation itself and not by the local authority.

Lord Beltwin

If the noble Lord will look at the actual spending of ILEA and then add to it the spending of individual boroughs who support their case—plus other spending as well—I think he will agree that the figure is at least significant. Happily, the outcome will be the same as that which applied to the GLC. However, we must ensure that we do not have the same type of delay which, as those who have spoken before me have clearly indicated—especially on this side of the Committee—would, frankly, have a devasting effect. That has to be said.

When we contemplate life after ILEA in relation to inner London, I should have thought, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Baldwin, said, that we can feel most relieved. The fact of the matter is that if one takes any statistics on their own you can argue about them; if you take the totality of spending and say that it is four times more expensive in administrative terms than anywhere else in the country, you can argue the point. However, it is only when one starts to put those concepts together that one obtains the type of picture which has led to us wanting to see done that which must be done.

The fact is that the case is overwhelming. The over-spending and under-achievement is something which cannot be left to go on any longer. We can argue as to how good or how bad it is; some people say that it is 93rd out of 96 education authorities. We can say that perhaps it is the 83rd, but that is still quite awful by all standards.

Attention has been drawn to the poor backgrounds of people concerned, with the children coming from poor homes and so on. If there were no others in that situation then perhaps one could argue the case. I accept that Leeds should not be brought in here because that authority always does these things so much better under whatever system is operated there. But there are other areas. In another capacity I have had the opportunity to see those areas where the conditions are quite awful, and one would not want to say how much better or worse they are than some areas in London. Yet the education results are not by any means as awful.

On that point, if the Committee will allow a strictly personal note, up to the age of 10 I attended a primary school where the average size of classes was 44. I do not think we ever had less than 44 in the class and one could say of almost all those children that they came from what would be described today as poor backgrounds. Almost all of them came from the ethnic minorities. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Parry, knows exactly what I mean when I say that. Yet the teaching was good, the head master was strict, but he was highly respected. The parents were concerned about what the children were doing in school. One thing was not there and noble Lords may or may not consider this significant: on none of the school noticeboards or walls was there any notice pertaining to anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-heterosexism or anti-anything else, come to that.

The results of the school in educational terms, with all the background and all the deprivation, could only be described as outstanding. I shall name the school because I would love to see it on the record. It was the Lovell Road School, Leeds. I am very proud of having at one time been a pupil there.

I have no fears as to what life will be like afterwards. It is true that the boroughs will do things differently. Some will be better, some will be worse. This is always the case in local government. The noble Baroness, Lady Hart, who, I note, is not in her place, asked, where will the money come from for the boroughs? Of course, as always, it will come from the same place as the money for all the other education authorities in the country—from central government grants, through the rate support grant. The poorer boroughs will receive much more than the better off boroughs. That is always the way.

I shall not say a great deal today because many others have spoken, and who knows how many more may wish to speak! But the more carefully I have looked into the case made out by the anti-abolitionists, the more appalled I have become. One cannot explain away the fact that one out of eight head teachers in 1986 and another 76 by May 1987 had left the service of ILEA. That cannot be explained away. We can take heed of what the general secretary of a head teachers' association said: The fact is that the job has become almost impossible. They (the head teachers) are continually harassed by threats of tribunals, of allegations of racism, sexism and so on". How can teachers go about their business of teaching and educating the children in such a festering atmosphere? When it has all gone and it is all finished, it is all just a bad dream, the teachers will be free from any of the fear of harassment of this kind. Then we shall see a real opportunity for the children of London.

In my view postponement is not an option. I just do not think we can delay any longer. What is being called for by the amendment is the kind of vacillation that we had in the 'seventies. Look at the mess that got us into with just about everything! The low educational standards and high spending—it has to be said, so let us say it now—are a scandal. The financial cost in wasted millions is unjustifiable. The human cost in wasted opportunities is unforgivable. I think that uncertainty is the worst option of all. I hope that we shall reject this amendment, and I gladly support those who will do so.

Baroness Blackstone

I know what happened to the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, since he left his school, but I do not know what happened to the other 43 pupils. I am sure that everybody in this Committee will agree that almost all parents would prefer their children not to be educated in a class with 44 children. Almost all parents will be aware of the enormous difficulties that teachers would experience in a class as large as that. We have made some progress since then and certainly the Inner London Education Authority has made a great deal of progress since then. I do not believe that those reminiscences are appropriate to 1988.

I had not intended to speak on this amendment but one or two points have been made which I feel I must answer. As many members of the Committee know, I speak as a former chief officer in the Inner London Education Authority. I hope that the Committee will not think that makes me parti pris. I do not care whether the Inner London Education Authority as such survives. There are various forms of organisation which could provide education in inner London. What I care passionately about is that the quality of education for children in our capital city should be of the highest possible order, and that the range of opportunities for students and young people should be as great as they possibly can be. It is for that reason that I am on my feet rather than because I want to defend every single aspect of what the Inner London Education Authority has done in the past.

I should like to pick up the issue which a number of noble Lords on the opposite Benches have raised. One is the question of whether delay will be undesirable. I agree that a delay of many months would not be helpful to people in inner London. However, we are faced today with new clauses which were inserted in this Bill half way through its passage in another place. Surely it is reasonable in those circumstances to suggest that we should not rush with undue haste down a route about which many of us have great doubts. Moreover, I must take up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. This is not a wrecking amendment and I think it is very unfair to the noble Lords, Lord Kilmarnock and Lord Annan, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, to suggest that it is. If at the end of the day, after a review which should be short and should be done as fast as possible, it is decided, or the Government are advised by their experts that the best solution for education in London is to abolish the ILEA, then so be it. It cannot be a wrecking amendment in those circumstances.

I wanted to pick up one or two of the points made by the Minister. I think she was very unfair and somewhat selective in what she said about standards in inner London. I also think she was rather unfair and selective in what she said about costs. I am however glad that the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, has covered those issues admirably. I am pleased that it came from him rather than from me. As a professional education officer from outside inner London he may be considered to be more objective than I could possibly be. But I fully endorse every word that he said.

There are two or three other points which I think need picking up and which have not been covered. First, I should like to say a few words about social needs in inner London. Reference has been made to the extent of urban deprivation in our capital city. I do not think anybody has adequately covered the extent to which social conditions have deteriorated in recent years. There has been a great increase in unemployment among the parents of inner London school children. Housing conditions have deteriorated in many parts of the areas served by the ILEA. It is also the case that there has been a very substantial increase in the number of children and young people who do not speak English as a first language at home. The proportion of children who are qualifying for free school meals has increased.

This has all happened in the past four or five years. Therefore it is rather unfair to complain that ILEA has not adequately put its house in order when one takes into account the enormous social problems with which it is having to deal.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Somers

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. She said that we should not rush through this Bill with undue haste. We have spent two and a half hours and more over one amendment. Does the noble Baroness think that too hasty?

Baroness Blackstone

I have nothing to reply to that intervention, which I do not think is particularly helpful. I wish briefly to mention my point about costs. It is true that ILEA has had high levels of expenditure. It is possible that in the past some savings might have been made that were not made. I accept that. However, as again the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, has said, the costs of providing services in inner London are very much higher than they are in many other parts of the country. That applies to the police, to the social services and to other services. But the Government introduced new legislation not very long ago to control expenditure by local authorities where they consider that spending is too high.

Rate-capping is now operating in inner London, and, indeed, this very financial year ILEA is cutting its budget by 12 per cent. as a result of those provisions. If the Government wish to cut it further (although I would hope that they will not) they have those provisions available. The Government do not need to abolish ILEA in order to deal with the problem of high spending if that is what they perceive to be the main problem.

The Minister made a number of references to particular services and in almost every case she kept referring to the fact that whether it was adult education or whether it was the Horniman and Geffrye Museum they could rely in future on more private sector funding. I really wonder whether private industry and commerce in this country has so much spare money available that it can pay for our public services. Surely its profits should be reinvested to increase the productivity that the Government are so proud of. Surely it is out of general taxation and the raising of rates that we should pay for these services which are of communal advantage to us all.

I should just like to refer to the quite extraordinary speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford. To refer to the parents' poll as bogus is I believe an insult to those parents who spent many weeks and months organising that poll as well as putting money into it. It is quite untrue that those parents were simply responding to propaganda put out by ILEA. We have heard a certain amount of propaganda in this debate, some of it from the Benches opposite and some of it from the public newspapers. But to suggest that parents are unable to make up their own minds on this issue after reading the propaganda from all sides is I believe an insult and is totally and utterly out of tune with everything that the Government have said about their wish to listen to parents.

Finally, the headteachers and every other organisation in inner London concerned with education have come out strongly in favour of maintaining a unitary authority. I therefore find it quite extraordinary that the Minister should say that she has been listening. All I can say is that her listening has been extraordinarily selective.

Baroness David

The Government plan sudden and dramatic changes to, and fragmention of, the organisation and structure of the service which has provided for the social and educational needs of inner Londoners for more than 100 years. These hastily drafted changes were introduced in Committee after the Bill had been given its Second Reading in another place, and were quite unexpectedly inserted into Part III as a result of an Early Day Motion tabled by Back Benchers.

They remain on the face of the Bill despite overwhelming expressions of concern and anxiety from those who will have to live with the Government's unplanned outcome for London's education. Her Majesty's Inspector Mr. Eric Bolton has conspicuously failed to endorse the Government's proposal. Headteachers, parents, national representatives of the Churches, voluntary organisations and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry have all expressed their fears and concerns.

We on these Benches have been accused, quite wrongly, of complacency and of reluctance to acccept change. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, referred to this again this very afternoon; but I want to take this opportunity to spell out clearly our attitude to reorganisation and change. Our attitude is very firmly based on the stated policy and the clear advice offered to education authorities by the current Secretary of State for Education. This policy and advice relates to the manner in which changes to an education service should be proposed, agreed and carried out. Therefore, I shall confine myself in this debate to the advice and policy of the Secretary of State as defined in Circular No. 3/87, which was circulated by the DES on 6th May 1987, only a year ago. The circular is entitled Providing for Quality, and lays out quite clearly the General considerations against which the Secretary of State judges rationalisation proposals". First, the Secretary of State makes it quite clear that it is his policy, having regard to his legal obligations and the need for cost-effective reorganisation to keep an open mind as to what pattern of school organisation might best suit the needs of a particular area". Secondly, he states unequivocally (and I quote again): The Government is committed to giving the fullest possible effect to parental preferences". The parental preference must, however, be fairly considered by a Secretary of State whose mind is open. We have had parental preferences expressed very clearly in the ballot, but the Secretary of State does not appear to have kept an open mind.

The matter to which the Secretary of State attaches the greatest importance in Circular No.3/87 is consultation. Paragraph 9 of the circular states: The Secretary of State has made clear in previous guidance the importance he attaches to the adequacy of consultation on the part of all promoters. This policy, the circular emphasises, has received judicial backing from recent High Court decisions which hold that parents have a legitimate expectation that they will be consulted on proposals affecting reorganisation of their children's school. The Secretary of State expects appropriate consultation to have taken place with parents, teaching and other staff, governors and other interested parties at the formative stage of the proposals, with sufficient information and time available to permit intelligent consideration of and response to the issues involved; such consultation should normally have taken place within the 12 months immediately prior to publication. The circular goes on to encourage very careful consideration of a range of options. The Secretary of State advises: It may be appropriate that a range of options is explored before arriving at a specific proposal, but it is important that before a final decision is made, proposers should ensure that in the course of consultation the emerging choice is sufficiently identified to allow those being consulted to focus on it. Where an entirely new option emerges from the consultation process, the Secretary of State generally expects proposers to broaden the consultations to take account of that option. The circular them makes a particularly telling point in the light of this Government's refusal to make public the responses to their proposals to break up ILEA. Mr. Dunn, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, in written answers in another place, has made plain his refusal to disclose, analyse and publish responses to the Government's consultation document, which did not even include the present proposals, or to their proposals in the Bill, on which no consultation has been permitted and representations on which have been swept under the carpet.

The circular states in paragraph 11 on page 12: The Secretary of State expects proposers (of change) to be able to demonstrate that they have considered the views of interested parties in their formulation of proposals. He would not expect proposals to be published in the face of overwhelming local opposition unless the proposers could show that no other form of rationalisation could meet the circumstances of the area. The starkness of the contrast between that advice and the actions of the Secretary of State in relation to ILEA could not be greater. Not only has the same Secretary of State ignored his own advice by publishing proposals "in the face of overwhelming opposition": he has thought fit to include the proposals in legislation at a very late stage in its parliamentary progress. If that were not reckless enough, he has, without any willingness to demonstrate that he has considered the views of interested parties, proceeded to steamroller it through, ignoring throughout the anguish and outrage of parents whose votes were cast in the parents' ballot and who constitute an absolute majority. All the while, the Secretary of State has refused to show that no other form of rationalisation could meet the circumstances of the area". The amendment tabled by, among others, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London comes none too soon to rescue inner London from such recklessness. If Members of the Committee opposite feel that in supporting the amendment of the right reverend Prelate they may in some way incur the wrath of the Secretary of State or the Minister, they may rest assured. On the Secretary of State's own advice they are reminded in paragraph 12 of Circular 3/87— of the desirability of consulting Diocesan Authorities at an early stage on any proposals which could have implications for voluntary schools in their area". The considerations in the circular apply to small-scale changes, the closure of individual schools and the rationalisation of provision within authorities. Nevertheless, the Secretary of State has taken great care in providing detailed advice to authorities on how most effectively to manage and to bring about change and create a climate of opinion which enables change to take place with the benefit of public confidence. Is it not ironic that in the consideration of the major changes which will affect not one school but 1,000 schools, not 3,000 pupils but 300,000 pupils, and not 90 employees but 90,000 employees, and in considering a major upheaval to the administration of the capital city, the Secretary of State appears unwilling to abide by the standards and criteria that he rightly expects those dealing with lesser changes to observe?

In her speech the Minister showed that the Government have come to realise belatedly some of the problems which will flow from the abolition of ILEA. It seems to me that that has occurred very late in the day. The key point in the arrangements which she outlined in her speech earlier today is that those arrangements deal with adult education, music and voluntary organisations, which constitute a very tiny margin of the ILEA's total provision. It is the 1,000 schools that the ILEA is concerned about. What will happen to the pupils in those schools? I ask the Committee to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Belstead

We have had a long debate on the amendments, which I believe turn on two issues. The first is whether there is any longer a justification for retaining a single authority for inner London's education service. The second point is whether the service can be transferred successfully to the inner London boroughs.

What has become clear to me during the last three hours is that, whatever else we may feel about the Inner London Education Authority, there is no question but that the situation in the secondary schools in inner London leaves a great deal to be desired. Her Majesty's inspectors have always found a great deal that is good in other parts of the education service in the capital. However, they have found 40 per cent. of classes in inner London's secondary schools to be unsatisfactory or poor. That is reflected in the fact that in the final year of compulsory education the level of absenteeism across inner London's schools is almost 30 per cent. That means that on average on any given day one in three pupils is simply not there. It was also found that more than 20 per cent. of young people—

Baroness Blackstone

Perhaps the Minister will give way for a moment. Does he agree that truancy is seen in every major city in all developed countries, and particularly in cities suffering from urban decay? To suggest that truancy is the fault of the Inner London Education Authority cannot be fair. Perhaps the Minister will also tell the Committee what he thinks the inner London boroughs will do to reduce the rates of truancy.

Lord Belstead

I shall come to the question of the inner London boroughs in a moment. However, the point which the noble Baroness neglects is that for some unexplained reason the level to which I have referred is over twice the average throughout the whole of the rest of the country. That includes Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham and the other great conurbations. We also know that one in four of all children who leave schools at the end of their compulsory schooling in inner London do so without any qualifications. I put it to the noble Baroness that those figures are worse by a ratio of two to one than the figures for any other part of the country.

In the interests of pupils, that is not a matter which can be shrugged off. Nor can it be solved by pumping more money into the system. The fact is that the ILEA has become almost unbearably expensive. Today one only has to cross from inner London into the outer London boroughs to find that it costs nearly £1,000 per year less to educate a secondary pupil in outer London. Incidentally, the ILEA's costs per pupil are 75 per cent. higher than similar costs in Birmingham.

In addition, the very size of the Inner London Education Authority is a clue to its poor performance. Each of the authority's ten divisions deals with a workload which, in the outer London boroughs, would be appropriate for a whole authority. That is not the fault of the ILEA. However, it is an in-built problem and it means that the things which are of greatest concern to parents, such as the problems of a particular school, will not loom large among the enormous responsibilities concentrated at County Hall.

My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham made a crucial point when he said in essence that surely it is better and more in keeping with our ideas of local democracy for people in each borough to have a decisive influence on the shape of education in their areas through the ballot box in electing their local council, and to let the boroughs run education as they do other services, including the social services. That raises an important point. When the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said that he was thinking of people in debating the amendments—and I respect him for saying that—I must ask whether it will not be of advantage to such things as youth work, dual use of school facilities and programmes for young people in need if the boroughs become multipurpose authorities. That point was made very effectively by my noble friend Baroness Young, with all her experience of local government.

It was for those reasons that the Conservative manifesto a year ago made it clear that we believed that there is no longer any justification for retaining a huge unitary authority. We intended to proceed by allowing individual boroughs to opt out. However, as the Bill proceeded through another place the Government were by no means alone in realising that in the general interest, and not least in the interests of staff, there needed to be an orderly abolition of the ILEA as whole with the boroughs assuming their education functions simultaneously. Once we had made our intention clear, our proposals to abolish the Inner London Education Authority were carefully scrutinised in the other place. Over 22 hours were spent debating the matter there, and there is no justification for claiming insufficient scrutiny. Nonetheless the Committee has before it today amendments calling for a period of delay to look further into the matter. With respect, I do not think that that is necessary, but I accept that the Government must show that they are taking every care to ensure a successful transfer to the inner London boroughs.

So we are taking the following steps. First, the boroughs are being asked to publish development plans by next February explaining how they will take on their education responsibilities. That will enable parents, teachers and others with an interest, including the Churches, to discuss the shape of the education service in their area.

Secondly, over the next two years the Government will provide a great deal of financial support to assist the boroughs in preparing to become local education authorities. We recognise that setting up the new authorities will entail a good deal of work and the Department of Education and Science will stand ready both with grant aid and advice.

Thirdly, through the new education support grant—which is a new idea introduced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for monitoring the quality of education and for implementing the national curriculum—each of the inner London boroughs will receive support for additional school inspectors when, as we plan, they first become local education authorities in two years' time.

In addition, we intend to table amendments to make it possible for the London Residuary Body to provide support services formerly provided by the Inner London Education Authority across the boroughs if the boroughs ask for that to be done.

That represents a great deal of forward planning and I realise that it is necessary. But it can only go ahead if the Committee gives approval to this part of the Bill today and rejects the amendment. Let us be quite clear, a great deal has been said about the amendment but my reading of it is that it would mean that everything would stop until undoubtedly towards the end of 1989. Perhaps I may remind the Committee, because it has been a very long debate, that in addition to what I have just said my noble friend Lady Hooper in her speech announced a number of very important measures. Those measures will secure the long-term future of four very distinguished adult education establishments through a guarantee of central government funding. They will provide additional grants to help with the headquarters' expenses of inner London voluntary and youth organisations (and if I may, I shall return in a moment to the point about youth organisations which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman). The measures announced by my noble friend will secure the maintenance of high quality music tuition in inner London, and the London Schools' Symphony Orchestra in particular. Finally, those measures will make arrangements for the internationally famous Horniman and Geffrye Museums to become grant-aided independent trustee bodies.

I should like to tell the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, that we are now proposing to start discussions with the museums and the inner London education authorities about the constitution of those trusts.

There was one entirely different part of the debate this afternoon when the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hart of South Lanark, both raised the question of children with special needs. In effect they said that they had not heard the Government say anything about the position of schools which serve areas across borough boundaries. With their experience, both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord know much better than I that virtually no authority in this country attempts to provide by itself for every kind of handicap. Authorities tend to co-operate with each other in placing pupils in the most appropriate schools and the fact that recoupment is at full costs assists this process. The inner London boroughs will be expected to maintain the existing ILEA special schools with the process of placing children and recoupment of costs as in other parts of the country.

The point which was raised by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord in itself raises another very important point. That concerns the vital group of ILEA schools which provide residential special education outside inner London and which make a very important contribution to provision for handicapped children throughout the whole of the South East of England. So my right honourable friend will shortly invite representatives of the Inner London Education Authority, the inner and outer London boroughs, and the county authorities where the schools are located to join together in a working group to consider the future of these schools very much as was done in the 1960s at the time of the reorganisation of London boroughs.

In essence I am saying that a great deal of careful planning has started to ensure that, with the consent of Parliament, the boroughs will be able to take on their education responsibilities successfully.

With respect to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark who said that this was being done in such haste, there will be time enough because in order to become local education authorities on 1st April 1990, the inner London boroughs will have exactly the same period of time to prepare as the outer London boroughs had to assume their many responsibilities 20 years ago.

However, the Government recognise that in a matter as important as this as much certainty as possible is required. So perhaps even more important than the organisational structure of the new authorities will be the capability of the individuals who will be appointed to run them. Therefore the Government intend to bring forward at Report stage in your Lordships' House two amendments designed for that purpose. First, the boroughs' development plans will have to set out clearly the management structure for their education service, subject to my right honourable friend's approval. Secondly, and I think very importantly, we intend to bring forward amendments closely paralleling those provisions which applied until 1972 in all local education authorities requiring—for a limited period only—my right honourable friend's approval for senior appointments. I hope that when your Lordships see those amendments you will feel that they will provide an additional guarantee that the new local education authorities will start life with strong management teams.

This has been a very long debate and, if I may, I shall content myself with trying to reply to two questions only. The first is the very important question put to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hart of South Lanark, both of whom asked whether all the boroughs will be able to cope. Both noble Baronesses suggested that there were some which would not be able to cope. As I listened to both noble Baronesses I found it surprising that they had doubts as to whether inner London boroughs would be able to provide a service which all their neighbours in outer London have run for many years.

The Government accept that a great deal of work will be necessary to prepare over the next few years. That is why I have been at pains in my speech this afternoon to point out that we are setting up a special inner London unit. That is why we are offering the boroughs a specific grant. That is why the London Residuary Body will be able to help smooth any transitional difficulties by taking on some support services if that is wanted. Let us also remember that under the new system of local government finance which the Government are putting before Parliament the revenue support grant will be paid precisely in order to meet the needs of local authorities.

If, however, the noble Baronesses are concerned at the educational attitude of some of the boroughs I would remind them not only of what I said in my last few remarks about the arrangements for approval of the senior posts in the education service, but also of the important provisions in the rest of this Bill—the national curriculum, local financial management and the availability of grant-maintained status, all measures, if I may say so, which will provide powerful—

Baroness Seear

Perhaps I may—

Noble Lords


Lord Belstead

I should like to reach the end of the sentence—all measures, if I may say so, which will provide powerful safeguards and achieve exactly the objective which both the noble Baronesses wish to see achieved.

Baroness Seear

What I asked was whether the Minister can confirm that the poorer boroughs will be no worse off in real terms after the reorganisation than they are now.

Lord Belstead

The answer was embedded in the remarks which I have just made. Whether or not the noble Baroness likes the Local Government Finance Bill, the whole idea of revenue support grant when we come to introduce it (and I know that my noble friend Lord Caithness will have a good time explaining it to the noble Baroness) is that it will apply to the needs of the boroughs in London as it will apply to the needs of local authorities outside London. The exact details under which the revenue support grant will work have still to be worked out but I can say to the noble Baroness that I reckon that the way in which the revenue support grant work will be very much akin to the way in which the needs element of the GRE works at the present time.

The other question that I promised to answer was put in an intervention which came from the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who asked where the money would come from to replace the ILEA's grants to youth clubs. Of course the youth clubs, like others elsewhere, will look to both their own local education authority and other forms of local support. The noble Lord knows that. However, in her speech my noble friend Lady Hooper referred also to the very large scale of central government support for voluntary organisations. Speaking from memory, some £16 million is devoted to voluntary organisations by my noble friend's department, the Department of Education and Science; about £30 million comes from the DHSS and £20 million comes from the Home Office. So the amount of government money that is being channelled towards the voluntary organisations is very large indeed.

My noble friend Lady Hooper also said that in addition we should be providing grants for three years from 1990 specifically to assist the headquarters organisations of London voluntary bodies in their work of co-ordination across the capital. We shall watch closely the effect of our proposals on youth work but we are confident that this essentially local service will be well provided for locally. The difficulty in which we find ourselves today is that despite all that has been said from this side of the Chamber about the very careful planning that is going into the transition of educational responsibilities in inner London, the Committee has to consider a group of amendments tabled in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and other Members of the Committee, which would have the effect of delaying the preparations and lead to very damaging uncertainty.

Preparatory work in the London boroughs would simply grind to a halt. Inner London Education Authority staff would be left in complete uncertainty, as would parents. In the end it would be the children who suffer. If it is said that that is a price worth paying provided that we obtain a definitive report about inner London's education, with great respect to the Benches opposite I beg to differ. Report after report by both central government and the Inner London Education Authority itself have had too little effect on the way in which the authority conducts its business; I do not think that Amendment No. 272, which is among this group of amendments, will provide the answer. That is the amendment which would give my right honourable friend an order-making power to make changes in the structure of inner London's education. The constitution of the ILEA has already been changed in recent years and so far as I can see that has had no discernible effect on its performance.

I feel that my noble friends Lady Young and Lord Boyd-Carpenter had every justification for saying in their speeches that the inevitable consequence of these amendments must be substantial delay in preparing for the transfer of inner London's educational responsibilities, but on the evidence I believe that a transfer of responsibility from the existing huge authority is both necessary and urgent. With approval today from the Committee the work of preparing for an orderly transfer can go ahead and we can begin to build an improved education service for inner London with a strong local basis. I ask the Committee to give that approval and not to support these amendments.

6 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London

The Minister spoke about the reforms which had been produced in an attempt to affect ILEA. I should like to ask the Minister whether he will accept that from 1960 to 1984 all but one of the relevant reports—reports from Royal Commissions and other bodies such as the one that produced the Marshall Report—advocated a unitary authority quite independently of whether or not ILEA should continue to exist. The exception was a report produced by Mr. Baker, who was then a Back-Bench MP. That report advocated devolution to the boroughs. From 1960 to 1984 all the other reports maintained that a unitary authority should be retained in some form or other.

Lord Belstead

The right reverend Prelate has asked me a question and the answer is very simple. As I observed at the beginning of the debate and as my noble friends said in their speeches, that may be the case, but we have reached the point at which in view of falling standards and increasing costs it is not in the interests of the children of the capital to go on as we are doing.

Lord Kilmarnock

We have had a long debate, as is appropriate to the subject, and so I shall certainly not make a long winding-up speech. It would be churlish not to welcome such crumbs of comfort as those offered by the noble Baroness in her speech, but I must say that they seem to be restricted to a very modest level of interim funding while the institutions concerned seek private sponsorship.

I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, and his noble friends will be satisfied with the response on the question of museums, but no doubt the Committee will hear from them later. Again, I do not know whether the provision of £500,000 a year over three years for voluntary organisations working with youth clubs will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. Certainly to a layman it seems an extraordinarily small amount of money for the work involved.

In her speech the noble Baroness made great play on the words "reprieve" and "retention" in relation to ILEA. In fact, she implied that these amendments had been advanced simply as a screen for the reprieve or retention of ILEA as it currently exists. That is not the case. I tried to make that plain in my speech, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. We are not against change; it is a question of what change and whether it will work.

Those who support this amendment face the problem that neither the noble Baroness nor—I must say this to him—the noble Lord the Leader of the House has addressed our central concern. The noble Baroness referred to the need to give a clear signal to the three boroughs which were contemplating opting out, and she referred approvingly to Wandsworth's leaflet. Have we come to the point of legislating by leaflet? Moreover, what signal are we sending to the other boroughs? That is what we want to know. We received no answer to our questions. It seems to me that there is no prospect of the boroughs getting adequate funding without a very high level of poll tax.

Nothing has been said on the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. London has particular problems and there is a vast difference in the problems facing the different boroughs. We have talked a great deal about the three Conservative boroughs and very little about the fate of the other boroughs. In my view no rational argument against these amendments has yet been advanced in this debate, except the argument of delay. As I said in my opening remarks, I take that matter very seriously but that is simply not what we are proposing. There is no delay implicit in these amendments beyond that which is already implied in the Bill.

The noble Baroness and the noble Lord the Leader of the House mentioned everything grinding to a halt, but there is no reason whatsoever why boroughs should back-track on the development of their plans or abandon their preparations. As the noble Lord has said, they are due to submit their plans to the Secretary of State by February next year. No doubt they will also submit them to the panel of assessors that will be reporting only one month later; that is, by 1st April, which is also precisely one whole year before the abolition date. There is therefore no reason in the amendment why the abolition timetable should not be kept. The only difference between the Government's timetable and ours is that we would have a far better idea of where we are going and how to get there rather than stepping blithely and blindly into the abyss. In the circumstances I am afraid that I have no alternative but to press the amendment.

6.9 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 269) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 183; Not-Contents, 236.

Airedale, L. Hart of South Lanark, B.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Hatch of Lusby, L.
Alport, L. Hayter, L.
Amherst, E. Henniker, L.
Annan, L. Hereford, Bp.
Ardwick, L. Heycock, L.
Attlee, E. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Avebury, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Aylestone, L. Hughes, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Hunt, L.
Bancroft, L. Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Banks, L. Hylton, L.
Barnett, L. Irvine of Lairg, L.
Basnett, L. Irving of Dartford, L.
Birk, B. Jacques, L.
Birkett, L. Jay, L.
Blackstone, B. Jeger, B.
Blease, L. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. John-Mackie, L.
Bottomley, L. Kennet, L.
Bramall, L. Kilbracken, L.
Briginshaw, L. Kilmarnock, L. [Teller.]
Brimelow, L. Kindersley, L.
Broadbridge, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Kirkhill, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Kirkwood, L.
Buckmaster, V. Lawrence, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Leatherland, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Listowel, E.
Canterbury, Abp. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Caradon, L. Lockwood, B.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. London, Bp. [Teller.]
Carter, L. Longford, E.
Chandos, V. Lovell-Davis, L.
Chitnis, L. McCarthy, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Cobbold, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. McNair, L.
Combermere, V. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Mayhew, L.
David, B. Melchett, L.
Davies, L. Milford, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B. Mishcon, L.
Molloy, L.
Denington, B. Monkswell, L.
Diamond, L. Morton of Shuna, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Mountevans, L.
Donoughue, L. Mulley, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Elibank, L. Nicol, B.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Northfield, L.
Ennals, L. O'Neill of the Maine, L.
Esher, V. Oram, L.
Ewarts-Biggs, B. Parry, L.
Falkender, B. Perry of Walton, L.
Falkland, V. Peston, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Fitt, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Flowers, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Foot, L. Raglan, L.
Gallacher, L. Rea, L.
Galpern, L. Reilly, L.
Gifford, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Gladwyn, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Glenamara, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Grafton, D. Rochester, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Roll of Ipsden, L.
Gregson, L. Ross of Newport, L.
Grey, E. Russell, E.
Grimond, L. Sainsbury, L.
Hampton, L. Scanlon, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Seear, B.
Sefton of Garston, L. Thurso, V.
Serota, B. Tonypandy, V.
Shackleton, L. Tordoff, L.
Shaughnessy, L, Turner of Camden, B.
Shepherd, L. Underhill, L.
Sherfield, L. Vernon, L.
Soper, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Southwark, Bp. Walston, L.
Stallard, L. Warnock, B.
Stedman, B. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Stewart of Fulham, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L. White, B.
Strabolgi, L. Wigoder, L.
Strafford, E. Williams of Elvel, L.
Swann, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L. Winchester, Bp.
Taylor of Mansfield, L. Wrenbury, L.
Thurlow, L. Young of Dartington, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Davidson, V. [Teller.]
Aldington, L. De Freyne, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Deedes, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Allerton, L. Derwent, L.
Ampthill, L. Digby, L.
Arran, E. Dilhorne, V.
Ashbourne, L. Dudley, E.
Astor of Hever, L. Dulverton, L.
Auckland, L. Eden of Winton, L.
Bathurst, E. Ellenborough, L.
Bauer, L. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Beaverbrook, L. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Erne, E.
Bellwin, L. Faithfull, B.
Beloff, L. Ferrers, E.
Belstead, L. Ferrier, L.
Benson, L. Fisher, L.
Bessborough, E. Forte, L.
Blatch, B. Fortescue, E.
Boston, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Freyberg, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Gainford, L.
Brentford, V. Gainsborough, E.
Bridgeman, V. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Brookeborough, V. Gibson-Watt, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Gisborough, L.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Glenarthur, L.
Burton, L. Goold, L.
Butterworth, L. Gowrie, E.
Caithness, E. Grantchester, L.
Caldecote, V. Gray of Contin, L.
Camden, M. Greenhill of Harrow, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Greenway, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Gridley, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Haddington, E.
Carnock, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Carr of Hadley, L.
Cathcart, E. Halsbury, E.
Chelmer, L. Hanson, L.
Chelwood, L. Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Clinton, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Coleraine, L. Harrowby, E.
Colnbrook, L. Hartwell, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Harvington, L.
Colwyn, L. Havers, L.
Colyton, L. Henley, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Hesketh, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Hives, L.
Cottesloe, L. Holderness, L.
Cowley, E. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Cox, B. Hood, V.
Craigavon, V. Hooper, B.
Craigmyle, L. Hunter of Newington, L.
Cranbrook, E. Huntly, M.
Crickhowell, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Croft, L. Ironside, L.
Croham, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Kearton, L.
Killearn, L. Renton, L.
Kimball, L. Rippon of Hexham, L.
King of Wartnaby, L. Rochdale, V.
Lauderdale, E. Rodney, L.
Layton, L. Rollo, L.
Lindsay, E. Romney, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Rotherwick, L.
Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Rugby, L.
Long, V. St. Aldwyn, E.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. St. Davids, V.
Luke, L. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Lyell, L. Saint Levan, L.
McAlpine of Moffat, L. Saint Oswald, L.
McAlpine of West Green, L. Salisbury, M.
McFadzean, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
MacLehose of Beoch, L. Sandford, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Seebohm, L.
Malmesbury, E. Selkirk, E.
Mancroft, L. Sempill, Ly.
Mansfield, E. Shannon, E.
Manton, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Margadale, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Marsh, L. Somers, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Merrivale, L. Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Mersey, V. Stockton, E.
Middleton, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Strange, B.
Montagu of Beaulieu, L. Strathcarron, L.
Morris, L. Strathclyde, L.
Mottistone, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Munster, E. Sudeley, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L. Suffield, L.
Nelson, E. Swansea, L.
Nelson of Stafford, L. Swinfen, L.
Newall, L. Swinton, E.
Norfolk, D. Terrington, L.
Nugent of Guildford, L. Teviot, L.
Orkney, E. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Orr-Ewing, L. Trafford, L.
Peel, E. Trefgarne, L.
Pender, L. Trumpington, B.
Pennock, L. Tryon, L.
Penrhyn, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Perth, E. Vestey, L.
Platt of Writtle, B. Vinson, L.
Polwarth, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Porritt, L. Watkinson, V.
Pym, L. Weir, V.
Radnor, E. Westbury, L.
Rankeillour, L. Whitelaw, V.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L. Wise, L.
Reay, L. Wolfson, L.
Rees, L. Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Reigate, L. Young, B.
Rennell, L. Young of Graffham, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.22 p.m.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 269A: Page 136, line 19, leave out ("1990") and insert ("1992, subject to the provisions of subsection (3) below,").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 269A I shall also speak to Amendment No. 270AA. This amendment tries to do something rather different from what the last one did. It postpones the decision about the abolition of ILEA until after the borough elections and there has been time for the people of London to have had a chance to say what they want to say. In this amendment we are addressing the issue of a democratic mandate for the Government's proposals. The amendment calls for a postponement of the abolition proposals until such time as the people of London have been given the right to consider, debate and decide on the best way forward for their own education service.

In the speech that I made in the last debate I pointed out how little consultation there had been and how the Secretary of State did not wish to know the views of the people of London, in spite of the ballot. This amendment is in line with the Government's advice on the need to consult and (I quote again from Circular 3/87, which I quoted in my speech a short time ago) to adapt plans in the light of local people's views as a way both of forestalling objections and of improving the climate of opinion in which they are considered. But the amendment is about much more than simple consultation. It is about the democratic process and the right of local people to a degree of control over the manner in which the services they pay for through their taxes, and in future through their poll taxes, are run.

Above all, it is about the issue of an electoral mandate. The Government have made much of their mandate. At Second Reading my noble friend Lord Graham reminded us of what that mandate was—and it was confused. Clearly the Conservative Party had given some thought to fighting an election campaign in inner London on the basis of abolishing ILEA and had then shied away. Quite naturally, they wanted to win the election, not stir up a hornets' nest of parental opinion against them; and the likelihood of winning on a commitment to abolish ILEA was very slim. So they fudged the manifesto commitment.

In a short paragraph on page 20 they simply hinted (the Secretary of State keeps referring it to as "signalling") that in the area covered by the Inner London Education Authority, where entire borough councils wish to become independent of the LEA, they will be able to submit proposals to the Secretary of State requesting permission to take over the provision of education within their boundaries.

What, then, are the expressed wishes of the inner London borough councils? Three wish to become LEAs—Westminster, Wandsworth and Kensington and Chelsea. I am unaware of the position of another—Tower Hamlets. The remaining eight boroughs are on record as not wishing to take on education. Their leaders wrote a letter published in the Independent newspaper in January, the last three paragraphs of which I would cite. They state: As leaders of eight inner London boroughs we believe that the only way to provide a high standard of education for all children in inner London is through a single unitary education authority. Only an authority like the ILEA can command the resources and expertise needed to give fair and equal treatment to both children from deprived areas and those from more affluent backgrounds. Only an authority like the ILEA can provide a service which encompasses the differing demands of primary and secondary schools, further education colleges and institutes of adult education. And only an authority like the ILEA has been able to provide a comprehensive programme of assistance to such a wide range of children, from ethnic communities, children with disabilities and children who have special learning difficulties. We are utterly opposed to the Government's plans to abolish the ILEA. Over the next few weeks we will be making it clear to the Secretary of State that his proposals will inflict irreparable damage on the education system in London.

The Government profess to having been persuaded that individual boroughs opting out of ILEA would be administratively disastrous. I do not seek here to question that judgment. But it is to stand Aristotelian logic on its head to argue, as do the Government, that because individual borough opt-out is an impracticable solution therefore all boroughs must be forced to take on education.

The amendment tabled in my name is in reality closer to the Conservative Party's manifesto than its present proposals and enables this issue to be put before the people of inner London at the next borough elections in 1990. After these elections it will be possible for the representatives of the people of inner London, on the basis of the mandate they have received, to debate the question of whether they wish to become the local education authority for their area. If a majority of inner London councils indicate that they wish to become the LEA, then it will be up to the Secretary of State to decide whether those services are likely to be more appropriately provided by councils rather than by a unitary authority. Having so decided he will be empowered to lay an order which will provide for ILEA to cease to exist and for the boroughs to take over educational responsibilities. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

The noble Baroness, Lady David, has explained why she believes that these amendments provide an element of local decision about the structure of inner London's education service. It would not, of course, allow free local choice about the way in which education was to be run, and in that respect it differs from the proposals which the Government originally introduced into Parliament.

This amendment tries to have it both ways, and therefore is inevitably unsatisfactory, for the essential feature of this amendment is that it puts off for over two years any decision whatsoever about ILEA's future. During the next two years, teachers, parents, and administrators would have no idea whether they were planning for the next few months or for the next few years. The Government accepted that that aspect of their original proposals was unsatisfactory, and it is exposed in an even more unsatisfactory way in these amendments.

I have already explained fully to the Committee the urgent need for action to improve educational standards in inner London. The amendment will guarantee that none of these improvements took place. In this it is similar to the other delaying amendments that we have discussed, and I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw it.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Peston

In saying a few words on this amendment in a sense I shall be giving part of the speech I did not give in the previous debate. I found the previous debate very unsatisfactory because we were skating round the issues. In fact one or two Members on the Government Benches more or less said that, and I was somewhat sympathetic with them. We must get into the substance of the abolition of the ILEA on the one hand and inquire about the positive case for the devolution of education to the boroughs on the other.

I should like to state some general principles and my doubts on these matters, not because I expect in the immediate term to persuade noble Lords opposite, but the education of children in London will be with us for a long time, long after we have gone. It is vital that some of us say the right things about this and prepare the ground for what will be, I predict, the time when all of what is happening today will be changed.

I should perhaps say a word about the general principle of decision-making. I believe I heard the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, suggest that those of us who like to think about these matters and analyse them, should look at the evidence and raise questions such as, "Will you demonstrate to me that what you are proposing to do will work?". He pooh-poohed the idea and, in a derogatory fashion, used the word "conservative" about that. I believe in approaching problems in precisely the way I have described. If I am accused of being conservative in that regard I am perfectly happy to be so accused. I do not regard the careful approach to problems in any way as a bad thing. What I do regard as bad are emotional knee jerk reactions, saying that there is a problem that we must do something about and whatever pops into our heads is what we do.

In addition to that, there is some common ground because we agree that in some areas ILEA has serious problems. I do not doubt any of the remarks made by the noble Lord the Leader of the House about secondary education. It is simply not good enough. I entirely agree with him that it is not good enough and that something must be done about it. The reason we raise amendments of this kind and why we wish to pursue the matter further this afternoon and delay the Committee from other matters, is precisely in relation to that specific problem of secondary education and, more generally, in regard to all the activities that ILEA is engaged in. We cannot see the connection. My noble friend Lady David referred to Aristotelian logic. I refer to logic in general, and I cannot see the logic or the connection between the problems on the one hand and the solutions being proposed by the Government on the other.

I reiterate that the secondary education aspect of this matter is as dear to my heart as it is to that of any noble Lord opposite. I should like an explanation. To take the example of the London borough of Hackney, what is it that is about to happen that will improve the education of secondary school children in Hackney? The Leader of the House referred to truancy. As he will recall, yesterday some of us were seriously discussing truancy. We said that we thought it was an important problem but that we were not clear what the solution was in regard to that. I ask again, what is about to happen in Hackney that will reduce the truancy rate?

That is about secondary education in general. What concerns me more generally are the needs of London as a whole for cross-borough services. Here again, we see services being provided. Many are recognised as rather good. I believe that none of the cross-borough services is regarded as rather bad. The noble Baroness was at pains to try to reassure us that in some sense she can patch things up after all this goes on so that services continue. But she has no answer. I do not believe that the Leader of the House has an answer. I listened to the noble Lord the Leader of the House and I shall read his speech even more carefully in Hansard tomorrow.

I do not believe that in any sense we were told what is likely to happen. I do not expect a degree of certainty, or to be told what will happen, but just what is likely to happen. Is it not the case, and must the Government at least not recognise, that they are placing all of this at risk? The most they were offering to us was a modicum of reassurance. But there can be no doubt whatsoever about the risks that the Government are taking. They are plunging into an area blindly, and in my view and the view of my noble friends they are plunging into it—let us leave politics to one side—because they see a problem and feel desperate that they want to solve it; so they say, "Let us go ahead and see what will happen". My view is that that is not the right way to do it.

I was interested by something that the Leader of the House said. He said that logically we could argue that even if there are costs of delay—I believe he said that—there may be benefits. I am not certain that there will be many costs of delay; but for the sake of argument let us agree that there may be. What I am really arguing is that, having raised the matter, a more cautious approach might have guaranteed us more in the way of benefits.

That seems to me to be what lies behind our attitude to this matter. It quite clearly differentiates us from noble Lords opposite, because I must admit that if we had had the inquiry and the postponement. I still believe—I hope noble Lords opposite will take my word for it—that I am capable of coming to the conclusion, having considered it more, that perhaps what the Government are doing or something similar to what the Government want to do might be best. But on the available evidence, on the analysis of the particulars so far, I am totally unpersuaded and extremely concerned.

Baroness David

Of course we are not the least satisfied with the answers we have had. I repeat yet again that the Government have no mandate for this, which has caused extreme anxiety throughout the whole of inner London. I am sure that we have all had an enormous number of letters from teachers, parents, governors and from all the people who use the many services which ILEA supplies so well. However, I shall not at this moment press the amendment, but in order to try to improve matters we shall come back with something at Report stage.

Amendment, be leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 270 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendments Nos. 270A and 270AA not moved.]

[Amendment No. 270B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Alport had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 270C: Leave out clause 141 and insert the following new clause:

(". Abolition of ILEA.

.—(1) The Inner London Education Authority and any education committee established by that Authority, together with the Inner London Education Area, shall cease to exist at a date to be determined by the Secretary of State by Order in Council, a draft of which shall be laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(2) Such Order shall not be laid before 30th June 1992.

(3) The date in subsection (1) above is in this Part referred to as the "abolition date".

(4) The Secretary of State shall before the abolition date consult the local authorities, professional teaching organisations and representatives of school governors and parent associations in the Inner London Education area with regard to making provision for the future organisation of adult and further education, special schools, museums and cultural activities and the central advisory, inspectorate and procurement services at present administered by ILEA, and may make, by Order in Council additions or amendments to Part III of this Act as may seem appropriate.").

The noble Lord said: In view of the fact that there may be an opportunity to discuss this matter at a later stage I am not moving the amendment on this occasion.

[Amendment No. 270C not moved.]

Clause 141 agreed to.

After Clause 141: [Amendments Nos. 271 and 272 not moved.]

Clause 142 [Expenses]:

Baroness Seear moved Amendment No. 272ZA: Page 136, line 25, at beginning insert ("Subject to the provisions of section (Organisation of further and adult education) below,

The noble Baroness said: With the permission of the Committee, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 272ZB. Whatever else the Government may say about these amendments, they have nothing to do with delaying the introduction of the changes that the Government wish to bring about. They are based on the assumption that the Government will have their way and that the reorganisation will take place.

As I said in the last debate, to a small extent some of us were reassured by what the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said about the provision that she proposed to introduce for certain selected adult education colleges, although as I mentioned in the debate there are still questions to be asked about that because of the reference to the expectation that much of the money—though, from what she said, I do not know how much—will be raised from the private sector. Even if the provision for those colleges is entirely satisfactory—and that remains an open question—it leaves a number of colleges and a number of education activities that in our view by their nature should be cross-boundary.

To take not only the colleges referred to by the Minister but adult education institutes and colleges of further education in general, there seems little logic in arguing that this should be done on a boundary basis. In such cases, one is by definition providing for adults—people who are at least post compulsory school age who regard themselves as adults, however else others may regard them. Adults are capable of crossing borough boundaries for the studies that they wish to pursue. It is surely sensible and economic that colleges should specialise, particularly having regard to the expense of providing equipment and resources today. One college should provide Russian, another advanced computer studies, and so on. It does not make sense for them to be organised on a borough basis; they should be organised on a London-wide basis.

The Government will say that this can be done by agreement between the boroughs, as happened after the abolition of the GLC. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark said, the changes made by the Greater London Council in terms of cash resources and the nature of the tasks to be undertaken were of a very different order from the changes to be made with the abolition of the ILEA. A London-wide plan for the most economic and effective provision of further education is needed. This will be very expensive if it is done properly. It needs to be guided and developed by people who are expert in the subject. It will become more expensive and will call for increasing expertise. This applies to adult education too.

At a time when people are being urged to retrain, those who for one reason or another have missed out on so-called normal educational development should be able to take advantage of the great variety of classes now available in colleges of further education. There is surely a case for a London-wide body to have a strategic plan for further and adult education, which will co-ordinate and assist with the financing and ensure that it is done as effectively and economically as possible. The Government cannot be so doctrinaire in their belief that every mortal thing has to be done by the local authority that they cannot see the advantages of a London-wide body for the development of this important and growing area of education.

6.45 p.m.

Viscount Combermere

In appending my name to the amendment, I am in full agreement with what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said. However, I should declare an interest in that I am on the staff of the extra-mural department of London University. Hence, with my colleagues, I am closely involved in planning courses at university level at various adult institutes in London.

The Government have frequently expressed an interest in adult education. However, the pamphlet that I have received entitled ILEA—The Closing Chapters refers to adult education in only one sentence: While some aspects of ILEA education—particularly adult education and the youth service and teacher resources—are of commendable quality, the mainstream education, especially at secondary level, for pupils in inner London is not". It is precisely this aspect of ILEA education of acknowledged quality that will be at risk. On Second Reading, several noble Lords expressed their concern in this connection. I believe that the Government have gone a little way in meeting the anxieties of those of us who are greatly concerned at the threat that hangs over adult education.

References have been made to a group of four adult education institutes that will be catered for. To follow the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, one wonders how well this has been thought out. In company with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, one wonders how realistic is the expectation that they can raise adequate funds from private finance. Adult education will continue to be at risk because the other various adult institutes spread throughout inner London will become the responsibility of 13 individual London boroughs. Some may well have both the resources and the interest to support adult education. However, even in the most favourable circumstances, how can one London borough mount the range of courses that one now finds in ILEA-controlled adult institutes? One may find established colleges under the control of an impoverished borough or of a borough that clearly has other educational priorities.

Adult education will be at risk because many of the colleges and institutes are in two or even three boroughs, and student enrolment is totally independent of local borough residence. Hence colleges and institutes have been able not only to offer a core curriculum of basically similar courses but also to develop specialist work of excellent quality. These opportunities for strategic planning across London boroughs give students a real second opportunity—and they come from all over London, irrespective of borough boundaries. If adult education were to be borough-based, the opportunities might be severely limited. There is not time to refer specifically to further education. My comments apply in general in this area as well.

The excellence of adult education in general has been referred to by many noble Lords. This recognition is not just national; it is international. The quality of this neglected area of the education spectrum has been singled out for praise by Her Majesty's Inspectorate. Even the Conservative Party pamphlet on ILEA echoes it, and the Minister has underlined it. There are many areas that one could highlight in this respect. There is the provision for the unemployed and the elderly—40 per cent. of all adult students are receiving concessionary fees. There is the provision for women—70 per cent.; for the educationally disadvantaged—4l per cent. of adult students in London have no formal qualifications; and for the ethnic minorities.

Adult education would undoubtedly survive in some form if ILEA were to be abolished. A group of four institutes undoubtedly would, but one wonders about the others. In this context, I fully support the proposal for the establishment of a London further education and adult education board.

Lord Peston

As we discuss the amendment, it seems that we are illustrating precisely what I had in mind in my earlier intervention. Here we have a service fulfilling a need, meeting a demand and internationally recognised for its quality, and we place it at risk. I repeat that I can see no rationale for placing a service like this at risk. I think that it is foolhardy and wanton.

However, the Government have decided to do that. Our next responsibility therefore is at least to minimise the risk, and to start to put pressure on the Government to safeguard this very important area. I find it very odd—and again I make the Boyd-Carpenter point—that noble Lords on this side of the Committee have to refer to matters like tradition. The tradition of the cross-London education authority with respect to adult education is long standing, is greatly recognised and, for those of us whose origins are slightly poorer than average, it is a tradition in which our parents and grandparents were involved.

The fact that some of us have made our way in the world so that we take part in ordinary education should not cause us to forget that there still remain our fellow citizens for whom adult education is in many ways a life-saver, in particular offering them something worthwhile to do in lives which are otherwise very unsatisfying. I cannot state too strongly our concern about those matters.

Concerning the four colleges and the intervention of the noble Baroness, as always with these matters everything happened so quickly and I was not quite clear what kind of guarantee she gave. If she is about to intervene again, which I hope she is, I should like to hear, perhaps more slowly, the guarantee for these colleges and in particular whether there is a guarantee? Will the Government ensure that these colleges survive no matter what antics the individual boroughs get up to?

Related to that—and this is a good hook on which to hang this point—the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, when intervening in the earlier debate asked about real resources. She asked a specific question on that subject. I have not had a chance to ask her whether she understood the answer, but I did not. I did not think that there was the faintest glimmer of an answer to the question which was whether the same amount of resources will be available to which the answer is either, "yes", "no" or "we do not know". I was not very clear which of those was the answer.

That is of particular importance in areas such as adult education because, unless I misunderstand it, another aspect of the ILEA is specifically an education authority. The London boroughs will be boroughs and also education authorities.

From my small knowledge of local finance—and that will very rapidly become obsolete if we proceed with the changes in local finance that are envisaged—the different activities within a broader authority will compete with each other. Therefore, from now on, in no sense will education and resources for education be safeguarded within these boroughs. Perhaps I may put that as a question. Is there any sense in which the resources can be regarded as safeguarded? Is there not an evident danger that authorities which are hard-pressed and subject to all kinds of pressures to avoid spending money will rapidly decide that there are certain activities such as adult education which, compared with other pressing matters such as the homeless, will first have to bear its share of the cuts and then its disproportionate share of the cuts? There will be all kinds of arguments about raising fees. It will be said that if those people really want the education they will be willing to pay higher fees and that if the fees are raised and people do not attend the courses it is because they do not really want them. That is as much a misuse of a marketing mechanism as one would ever come across.

Those are our concerns. Our concerns are about the future and the slow death of the adult education service because it would not disappear but would gradually deteriorate. That is why the amendment of the noble Baroness and the noble Viscount is so important. I do not like quangos and I am not against the Government in their 10 years of quango abolition although there now seems to be a turnaround and new quangos are appearing. However, in this case I believe that the noble Baroness is right and that something of the nature of a further adult education board might give one a little more confidence and a cross-London voice to these matters which I should like to be heard.

Therefore, I believe that the noble Baroness and the noble Viscount are to be congratulated on bringing this matter to our notice. I believe that we could change the wording and refer to other services which we shall be discussing in due course so that, in a sense, this is a probing amendment for cross-London services. Speaking not only for myself but also for my noble friends, there is nothing in the area of inner London education dearer to our hearts and minds than adult education.

Lord Hylton

If this amendment is accepted I believe it will confer benefits on not only inner London but also outer London and, to some extent, the adjoining areas of the Home Counties. I say that because London still has a functioning transport system which will enable people to come in from the outside and to take advantage of what is being provided in the centre. That is surely something of which we should make use and capitalise on. On those grounds. I strongly support the amendment.

Baroness Young

I do not believe that there can be any disagreement between any of us in the Committee this evening about the importance of adult education. I entirely accept what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said about the invaluable opportunities it has given and will continue to give to thousands of people and, indeed, all the opportunities it gives to women and ethnic minorities. We all know the arguments about training and retraining; namely, that such training is invaluable. I hope that we shall all agree on its importance.

The question which must be addressed is one which I felt my noble friend Lady Hooper addressed in her remarks; namely: what are the proposals for the future of this very important service? Of course, I have looked at the draft guidance which has been issued and in paragraph 22 and following I see that the plans that the boroughs make must indicate their proposals for adult education. That must be right. I believe it will be helpful to hear from my noble friend Lady Hooper in more detail than her original remarks about what will happen.

When my right honourable friend the Secretary of State comes to consider the guidance it is very important that he ensures that the variety of provisions is maintained and that it is possible for people to cross borough boundaries. I see no reason why that should not be the case because it happens in other authorities up and down the country and I see no reason why in London, where it should be much easier to move around, that should not continue.

The noble Lord, Lord Peston, said how worried he was that this service would come under an authority which was not just an education authority but was also a local authority. However, that is the position in the rest of the country and it functions. Therefore, I see no reason for believing that it will not function at this point.

We return to the argument about resources and I am sure that my noble friend Lady Hooper will have something to say on that matter. As regards the future of local government finance, as I understand it—but I stand to be corrected—at least half will be paid by the Government. Moreover, its distribution will be crucial because it will have to pay attention—and I believe this was the point made by my noble friend the Leader of the House when he wound up—to the needs of the authorities. Therefore, it will be distributed in that way. I believe it is very difficult to put a figure on this because, if I may say so and I hope that I shall not raise too many hackles in saying this, more resources do not necessarily mean that it will be better. One matter that one has to look at is what is happening to the resources. We have seen in quite a number of organisations that one can be more efficient. I do not put this forward as an argument because I am not sufficiently familiar with the details and therefore it would not be proper for me to criticise something of which I have no knowledge.

That is one of the arguments that would need to be looked at. If ILEA is proposing, as I understand, to reduce its expenditure by 12 per cent., no doubt the resources on these colleges will be taken into account with the resources on its other services. That is another measure. Therefore, it will be very difficult to answer the question put by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. Perhaps my noble friend could reiterate the broad basis on which we see Government funding in the future which must take account of the needs of adult education in less well off boroughs in London as in a general distribution of government grant to local authorities.

7 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

Like the noble Viscount, Lord Combermere, I have some responsibility for adult education in London. Indeed, the University of London's extra mural studies department will be incorporated into Birkbeck College on 1st August this year. That department has had an enormous range of contacts with ILEA's further and adult education provisions. Many of us are extremely nervous about how far the university's contribution to this area of work can continue when we have to negotiate with 13 different authorities rather than with one.

I am sure that the Minister will agree that for higher education institutions in London—and no doubt other universities such as Brunel and the City University—the proposals in this Bill will create much greater difficulties. As the Master of Birkbeck, I should like to add that we are endeavouring to recruit a much wider range of students than traditionally has been the case. We are anxious to recruit more young people, and indeed elder people, from ethnic minority backgrounds, and people who do not have the conventional two or three A-level qualifications but have other types of experience or qualifications, many of which can be equally useful for attaining higher education.

One of the initiatives taken by ILEA in its provision of further and adult education is to be a great leader and innovator—I believe those are the correct terms to use—in the field of access courses. The Government have become increasingly concerned, and Ministers have been making speeches about it, to seek to widen access. They are right to do so, and I congratulate them. It is extraordinarily important in a context where we are to see such massive demographic decline and if the level of qualified manpower that this country needs to survive is to be maintained.

Apart from individual access courses for particular colleges, ILEA has set up what it calls open college networks which cover a number of areas of the authority and certainly go right across borough boundaries. It has planned those networks in the interests of serving as large a number of people as possible. If we are simply to hand over the whole of adult and further education to 13 different boroughs, those networks which have done so much for access courses will be jeopardised.

Reference has already been made to provision for the unemployed and the elderly—people who may not necessarily be in the same category of people, as I have described, who go on to higher education. Those groups are equally important and must not be neglected. Only this afternoon I received an extremely touching letter from a man of 74 whose wife had just died. He said that adult education had brought to him a lifeline of sanity from black depression and misery. One could, of course, give countless other such examples.

Just because the metropolitan districts provide adult education does not mean that the 13 inner London boroughs would be the best form of organisation for that in a big city like London. I am sure the Minister will agree that the extent and nature of provision in inner London is, in any case, very much broader and wider than that provided in any other metropolitan district in the country.

It is rather strange that we have sitting on the Government Benches noble Lords who are Conservatives and who therefore, I had always thought, want to preserve what is best about educational provision or, for that matter, any other aspect of our national life, but who are willing to throw away a service of such merit as this. I do not need to remind the Committee of what the recent HMI report on ILEA said about these services. They could not have been described in more positive or rosy terms than by Mr. Eric Bolton.

In those circumstances, does not the Minister agree that it would be sensible to endeavour to set up some sort of provision across London to ensure that these services can be preserved at their present level? I reiterate the questions already put by a number of noble Lords about the funding of adult and further education. One of the reasons the ILEA has had high levels of expenditure is because it has had high levels of provision. It reaches far more people than is the case in many other parts of the country. It is not simply because of high administrative costs or more support services. I support the amendment because I fear that otherwise these excellent services will be jeopardised.

Baroness Hooper

We recognise the importance of further and adult education, and I have already acknowledged the high quality of much of the ILEA provision. Indeed, I go so far as to say in a general way, and not just with reference to ILEA, that adult and continuing education has an increasingly important role to play, as my noble friend Lady Young said. Indeed, the widening of access to which the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, referred is supported by the Government.

These amendments would mean the retention of an independent pan-London bureaucracy to deal with all further and adult education, and that the boroughs would simply take their orders from that body. The responsibility for the education of London's 16 to 19-year-olds would then be split between the boroughs, which would run the 16 to 19 service in schools, and this body which would provide for them in colleges. That is surely a recipe for divisiveness and consequent inaction at a time when it is widely accepted that more flexible and integrated provision of education for the 16 to 19 age group is required. Morever, it does not appear necessary to have that sort of division in any other part of the country.

I note also that the amendment offers no advice on how the service determined by this body would be funded, although a number of questions raised in the debate have referred to resources. I suspect that it might be the case of the body deciding the provision and the boroughs being obliged to stump up the cost. We are in no doubt ourselves that the responsibility for policy provision and funding must be located at the borough level; and that is the intention behind our proposals. In saying that, we fully recognise that further education provision in inner London has its own distinguishing characteristics: an uneven spread of colleges, many of them with sites in more than one borough, and specialist provision. We believe that those factors do not present insuperable problems.

The draft guidance referred to, issued recently, makes clear that the Secretary of State expects that, even though they cross borough boundaries, colleges would usually transfer to the boroughs intact and the boroughs should continue with the broad pattern of provision that they inherit. Of course, we shall be discussing that further with the boroughs and will be concerned particularly to ensure that specialist provision is maintained.

The existing automatic recruitment arrangements will ensure that boroughs are reimbursed for the provision they make available to students from outside their area. In addition, it is to be expected that, like other local education authorities, the London boroughs individually or in co-operation will purchase some further education provision from those institutions which will be transferring to the PCFC sector.

Turning to adult education, as I have said, we readily acknowledge that the ILEA provides a first-rate service, and it is the firm intention of government that a first-rate service should continue. That is entirely consistent with our view that decisions on the generality of adult education are best taken by the boroughs themselves, which should be at least as aware and responsive to the needs and wishes of their local communities as a London-wide body.

As we said in the draft guidance, we expect boroughs to consult each other in order to secure the most satisfactory organisation of resources. We also recognise the need for boroughs to consider carefully recoupment arrangements in order to safeguard the viability of certain courses. The department intends to have early discussion with the boroughs about these and other matters in order to assist them in the preparation of development plans.

We have two years in which to do this and we do not wish in any way to pre-empt any suggestion that may come from the boroughs themselves. Questions have arisen over resources and, as I have said, I am not sure how the creation or the introduction of a unitary body would make an enormous difference in this respect. However, for the generality of adult education we believe that decisions about what provision can be afforded and what charges should be made are best taken by the boroughs, which should be more aware and responsive to the needs and wishes of the local community than a London wide-body. Therefore, the main provision will come from that source.

The noble Lord, Lord Peston, and others asked me to return to my remarks as regards the specialist colleges, the future of Morley College, the Mary Ward Centre, the Working Men's College and the City Lit. I believe I have made it clear that the concern of the Government for these four institutions is such that their future is guaranteed. As necessary, the London Residuary Body will meet the shortfall in their funding—and shortfall that arises—in order to ensure the continuation of an effective service. Beyond that, the Government are willing to continue to provide financial support. That will take us some years ahead and so provide as much or more of a guarantee than ILEA would have been likely to do.

It is not unreasonable that during that time the institutions should also look to see what level of private support they can attract and also to look at their charges. That does not mean that the Government are aiming to price them out of the market; on the contrary, we want them to thrive.

The noble Viscount referred to the generous discretionary provision of ILEA. I accept that ILEA has traditionally operated a generous policy in respect of discretionary awards to full-time students in further and to some extent adult education. We believe that discretionary awards are the responsibility of each local education authority. It will be for the inner London boroughs themselves to determine their own policy for making such awards, taking account of the particular needs and circumstances of their area.

In the course of discussion and preparation of the development plans that will be taking place, obviously the Government will be in a position to emphasise the importance which they attach to this area. With these explanations and assurances, I trust that the noble Baroness and the noble Viscount will feel prepared to withdraw their amendment.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Peston

I hope the Committee will bear with me because I have one or two other questions to which it will be of interest to know the answers. I believe I am right in saying that there is no actual obligation to provide adult education. I understand that the Government and the noble Baroness's right honourable friend the Secretary of State have been in touch with at least one or two of the Conservative boroughs. Without any secrets being revealed, it will be interesting to know whether adult education was discussed when they talked about their anxieties in regard to how to deal with this subject. Perhaps the noble Baroness can tell us something about that.

Perhaps we may consider one of these bodies, namely, City Lit. Let us suppose that Westminster announces that it does not want to spend any more money on City Lit. It seems that it is perfectly entitled to say that. Does the borough of Westminster really believe that it does not gain anything from the existence of City Lit and therefore that it does not see why the ratepayers or poll tax payers of Westminster should help in any way to finance City Lit? In addition, let us suppose that the London borough of Westminster were to say that it has no intention of reimbursing other boroughs for their own people who go for adult education in other boroughs. I ask the noble Baroness whether I am right in saying that there is nothing that can be done directly about this if Westminster announces that it is simply not going to make this provision any longer and it simply does not do so.

If that is the case, it seems to me that we have moved to a logically different state of affairs from that which exists under ILEA. I should like some explanation as to why that different situation can be better. It seems that it can only be good if Westminster behaves itself or it becomes worse with the other possibility of not reimbursing other boroughs. There is no prospect of its being better. I have no reason to believe that this is an actual case I am discussing; it is a theoretical one.

Let us assume that this happens. Who then steps in? It seems to me that one of the results that will follow as regards this whole Bill and the 366 leap-year number of powers of the Secretary of State is that this is one area where there are not any powers. In other words, he cannot intervene and say, "In that case I instruct Westminster to provide or support this measure or I myself will do it for the people of London". It seems that this amendment opens up a can of worms and I should like some response from the Minister on that subject.

Perhaps I may return to the question of private finance for institutions like Morley College. I am not objecting to private finance. I shall be interested to know—this relates to a point raised by my noble friend Lady Blackstone—why the private sector would wish to finance Morley College in any major way. Why would the private sector wish to discover that it had become a Lady Bountiful, if you will forgive the sexist term, or Lord Bountiful? We all have to be non-sexist these days; perhaps I should say, Ms Bountiful. What has happened or what is about to happen to our society that we can have any confidence whatever that places like Morley College will receive significant sums? Is not this merely rhetoric on the part of the Government, a whistling in the dark and saying "We hope, we hope"? We also hope. I believe that what we are exposing here—I reiterate that I shall raise it again as regards other amendments—is the taking of terrible risks. Risks are being run by our fellow citizens and they are precisely the kind of people who should not be running such risks.

Earl Russell

I am not by any means an uncritical admirer of Edmund Burke, but I believe that some of the wisest things that he had to say in his reflections on the revolution in France were on the dangers of local government reorganisation. It was in that context that he developed most effectively the case that one cannot effectively tear down a living institution and build it up again in a completely new form. One has to let the institution grow, and when it grows one has to pay attention to the form in which it has grown.

The way in which organisations have grown in this city is the London way. We think as Londoners and we associate as Londoners. Our interests are shared with other Londoners, but not very often with residents of our individual local borough. Our transport network is run in that way. We have here a living institution, and when the noble Lord, Lord Peston, spoke of a can of worms he was using an image which I believe is apt in more ways than he intended. The Government seem to be saying that they imagine we may treat the education services as though they were worms, divide them, and leave each part to carry on its own separate life.

With the more specialist forms of education provision I do not see how this can work. To draw up a form one has to draw on a large area. I do not see the future for 13 different boroughs teaching Arabic and 13 different boroughs teaching Chinese. I simply cannot see how one can do it. The result will be to tear down a valuable service. It will come very near to an act of educational vandalism.

Therefore I ask the Government to take some heed of what has happened in other places. Other countries take pride in their capital cities; they treat them as a national asset and develop their services. I can think of no other country which treats its capital city with the contempt which we are showing towards ours at the moment. I beg the Government to think again on this issue.

Baroness Hooper

I shall try to answer one or two of the additional questions which have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, asked whether the subject of adult and continuing education has been discussed with the Conservative boroughs. I should remind him that the guidance which has been issued, which refers to adult and continuing education and its importance in the development plan, has been issued to all boroughs. Further, it has certainly been discussed with the leaders of those boroughs which have been prepared to come forward and discuss their plans with us. I refer the noble Lord to the leaflet issued by Wandsworth council which has a section headed "Adult Education", which refers to various details on the matter.

The noble Lord also put forward a hypothetical case where Westminster council would not choose to send any of its population to the City Lit. I think that hypothetically is the only way that we should treat the suggestion. There is no doubt that not only in London but in other parts of the country that type of cross-boundary movement takes place, especially in the case of the City Lit. and the school for the deaf where a special provision is available. Therefore to say that he is being a pessimist about that aspect of the matter is, I think, understating the situation.

The noble Lord also asked why any of the private sector would wish to provide finance for Morley College. If we consider that this is a service—as we have all agreed—that is valuable to the population in London and if we also agree that firms and businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of training and retraining their employees, I believe that there is plenty of scope for private sector input in this area. We certainly do not wish to pre-empt any suggestions that may be forthcoming and we understand from the colleges themselves that they may have some ideas in this connection. Therefore we clearly wish to see them and support them in any endeavours that they may put forward.

I entirely refute the suggestion that this is an act of educational vandalism.

Lord Peston

I was genuinely seeking enlightenment so as to save myself having to look it all up. Am I not right that it is not obligatory to provide adult education—in other words, there is no statutory responsibility?

Baroness Hooper

From memory I believe that the 1944 Act—

Baroness Seear

There is no statutory obligation.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

The Minister drew our attention to the document published by Wandsworth council and the fact that it contained a section entitled "Adult Education". However, has she noticed that one of its recommendations is that fees charged in evening institutes should be increased?

Baroness Hooper

It is a suggestion that has been put forward and obviously there are people who many well be willing to pay such additional fees to those institutions.

Baroness Seear

The noble Baroness will not be surprised to hear that I was most disappointed with her reply. She told us—as have other speakers on the Government side—that other parts of the country manage perfectly well with local authorities controlling adult education, so why should not London? The fact of the matter is that London is way ahead in this connection and that is a very good thing. Just because other local authorities have not caught up, and have not been able to do as much, is no reason why London should have the service which it has built up so effectively relatively undermined; I believe that is what will happen.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, was right when he said that it is not, by any manner of means, only people in inner London who benefit from the provision in London. In the case of Morley College—I am sure it is true of many other colleges—many people come into London daily in order to work and when they finish at 5.30 p.m. they pop into the Morley canteen, have a cup of tea and go to a class for two hours before going home. Surely that is good use of resources. It is a great benefit to all manner of people in London—for example to ethnic minority groups; to women returning to work; to old-age pensioners; to housewives who suddenly discover interests they never knew they had before, and so on. In short, it is a most important service.

Moreover, economically speaking, continuing education is of the highest importance. Frankly, I do not believe that the noble Baroness understands what we are talking about: the importance of the service; the extent to which it has developed in London and the need for it to be developed still further, especially in the provision of specialised services of one type or another. If the Minister seriously thinks that this facility will be provided by the boroughs without any type of overall London plan, guidance, and financial assistance then frankly she is living in Cloud-cuckoo-land.

As the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said, the local authorities have, overall, local authority responsibilities competing for the money. There are many other worthy causes knocking on their doors wanting the money and adult education has to compete with those other demands. Again, it is perfectly true—although I do not think the Minister was quite clear about this aspect—that this is not a statutory obligation. If I were on a local authority committee, dealing with all those other demands, and an organisation which had no statutory right approached me and asked for resources I would say, no.

Unless the Government are prepared to consider provision on a London-wide basis, it is not just a pessimistic forecast, because as sure as night follows day the level of adult education and further education in the London area will decline. However, in the circumstances I do not propose to press the amendment at this stage and shall beg leave to withdraw it for the time being.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 142 agreed to.

The Earl of Arran

I think we have reached a suitable moment at which to break for dinner and adjourn the Committee stage. I suggest that we do not return to further consideration of this Bill until 8.30 p.m. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.